So, you may have heard in the news or over at Rynoman's blog that a libertarian think-tank in Tennessee discovered that Al Gore's electricity bill is much higher than the average American's.
Al Gore's office's response is that he is reducing his carbon imprint, in part, by purchasing "carbon off-sets," something I hadn't heard of until listening to NPR yesterday.
The Wall Street Journal has an article today about carbon offsets and how they work (subscription may be required for the article).
The concept is pretty simple: You can figure out how much CO2 you're emitting by driving your car to work every day, or taking a cross-country flight, etc., and donate an amount of money to an organization building green energy facilities or planting trees in order to offset your carbon footprint. (To calculate your annual carbon footprint, go to this website.)
For example, Travelocity will tell you how much your plane trip "costs" in terms of CO2, and allows you to add a donation to the price of your bill. The donation then goes to a company that builds wind farms, buys carbon permits, etc.
One popular company is TerraPass, which funds biomass projects and trades renewable energy credits on the Chicago Exchange. I went there and calculated that 12,000 miles driven per year on my Camry creates 8,350 pounds of carbon dioxide. I can buy a $50 TerraPass that will "offset" my imprint by investing in green energy opportunities.
The WSJ article says there's a lot of fraud quickly popping up, so you just have to research carefully who you're donating to, and how much work they're actually doing.
So, this is what Al Gore does. Much of the market for this seems to be from people saying "I know global warming is bad, but how in the world can I do anything about it?" It makes them feel better to buy a carbon offset, and it's pretty convenient to just click a box on Travelocity.
Tomorrow, I'll write another post on 2 easy things that you can and SHOULD do help reduce energy consumption and contribute to future environmental stability. For now, I'll let us all think about carbon offsets.