April 1, 2008
By Vincent Gioia
Achieving a global carbon credit mechanism continues to be at the top of the agenda of the three contenders for their party’s presidential nomination despite numerous scientific studies concluding that warming of the entire solar system is part of a natural cycle. Non-stop propaganda from the news media and politicians continue to blame man made carbon emissions for warming the planet.
Even though man made global warming is a complete fraud, proponents are using fear of global warming and alleged accompanying catastrophes as a basis for a world carbon credit system. This carbon credit system is a funding mechanism to consolidate wealth into the hands of the big global corporations and to potentially fund regional and global governmental institutions.
The European Parliament Peter Liese of Germany said “We want a worldwide system as soon as possible”. . There must be an end to the status quo that nothing is done . which has predominated for many years now.”
The European Union is pushing for the carbon credit scam in Europe, and the United States Senate is now trying to pass the Lieberman-Warner Senate Bill 2191 which is called America’s Climate Security Act of 2007. This bill is supported by Democrats and John McCain. If it is enacted into law it will establish a carbon credit system here in the United States that will give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) extraordinary enforcement powers over this system.
Any facility that emits or imports fuel that could potentially emit more than 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year would be affected by this bill and would be forced to abide by the rules and regulations the bill establishes. It has been reported that one average automobile emits approximately six tons of carbon dioxide on a yearly basis; so obviously 10,000 metric tons is not a lot of carbon dioxide.
Each facility covered by the bill is required to submit to the EPA Administrator periodic reports and anyone that violates the reporting requirement is subject to a civil penalty of up to $25,000 per day for each violation.
So what is this about “carbon credits”, sometimes also referred to as “carbon off-sets”?
The bill sets up a carbon credit system whereby credits may be issued on a yearly basis to allow “covered facilities” to continue to emit climate-changing carbon dioxide. A “Climate Change Credit Corporation” is established in the bill which would collect large amounts of money by auctioning off increasingly more valuable carbon credits. The bill authorizes this corporation to auction off an increasing amount of carbon credits over time. The bill also mandates that fewer and fewer carbon credits will be made available over time, so these carbon credits will become increasingly more valuable and more money will be funneled into this tax exempt corporation.
A carbon credit or offset is a financial instrument supposedly representing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Although there are six primary categories of greenhouse gases, carbon offsets are measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e). One carbon offset is said to represent the reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide, or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.
In the Lieberman-Warner bill something called The “Carbon Market Efficiency Board” is supposed to be established. This board would become price fixers for the market of carbon credits, just as the Federal Reserve manipulates the value of Federal Reserve Notes, the Carbon Market Efficiency Board will manipulate the value of carbon credits.
Many critics say the bill is nothing more than government fascism which gives broad police powers to the EPA, establishes a board with the power to manipulate the value of carbon credits and establishes a nonprofit corporation with no definitive government accountability that will have a great deal of wealth funneled into it by auctioning off what in the future will be increasingly more valuable carbon credits.
Carbon credits are also a way for many social environmentalists to continue to drive their gas guzzlers and for Al Gore and John Edwards to live in huge electric power-consuming houses while continuing to proclaim how environmentally conscious they are. In fact, anyone of us can go online, determine how many carbon credits we need and buy them from one or another approved sources.
Gore buys his carbon off-sets from himself–the Generation Investment Management LLP, “an independent, private, owner-managed partnership established in 2004 with offices in London and Washington, D.C.” of which he is both chairman and founding partner. If Gore’s motivation in pushing Global Warming is so altruistic, why did he establish a multi-million dollar corporation to cash in on it? Another question is did Gore create his business before the international global warming reports came out because he knew in advance what they would say?
There are practical reasons for participating in the carbon credit market if you want to soothe your polluting conscience. For example, $160 you can turn a Hummer H2 into a zero-emissions vehicle. No tools or mechanical ability are required. That’s what a California company called TerraPass promises. It would cost less, of course, to turn a small car into zero-emissions vehicle; that would only be about $40. The stickers TerraPass sends its customers of course do nothing to stop pollutants from coming out of a car but, in theory, the company offers its customers the chance to reduce pollutants from other sources, like power plants, in an amount equivalent to that produced by their car. That way, you can drive your car while having no net effect on the amount of pollution in the air, according to the company.
Believe it or not, TerraPass started as a class project at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School; Tom Arnold is TerraPass’s chief environmental officer and sole full-time employee. He has three students working for the company and a three-member advisory board. The company says it is a for-profit enterprise, but caps its profits at a maximum of 10 percent of revenues.
Presumably the money received by the company will be used to purchase pollution allowances on the Chicago Climate Exchange. The Climate Exchange allows polluting companies that produce less than a certain amount of airborne pollutants to sell credits to other companies that then allow them to go over the limit. TerraPass says it also invests buyers’ money (remember it only has one employee, the “owner”) in power-generating wind farms and other projects that reduce air pollution.
Author Lee Rogers gave this example in 2007 to demonstrate how carbon credit works on a commercial scale:
“A Carbon credit works like this:
Companies are limited to 80,000 tons of emissions, but “Company A” outputs 120,000. To offset this, Company A purchases 40,000 tons worth of carbon credits, therefore bringing them within the so called ‘legal limit’. This opens the door for multibillion dollar corporations to output even more, just by paying a “small fine” of purchasing carbon credits, which may or may not be used recently after their purchase, and even still, may not be used towards a truly worthwhile cause. All the while, Company A is increasing their emissions, while still complying with the Kyoto Protocol.”
Although carbon credit advocates are carrying the day, there are critics of the system. They argue that emissions trading does little to solve pollution problems overall, as groups that do not pollute sell their conservation to the highest bidder, not the worst offender. Ironically, many environmental activists consider strong advocacy of carbon trading by Al Gore and others amounts to a denial that global warming is imminent since it permits carbon dioxide emission to continue over a long period of time. Critics of carbon trading, such as Carbon Trade Watch, also argue that by including private activities “it places disproportionate emphasis on individual lifestyles and carbon footprints, distracting attention from the wider, systemic changes and collective political action that needs to be taken to tackle climate change”.
Another problem as The Financial Times noted in an article on cap and trade systems “Carbon markets create a muddle” and “…leave much room for unverifiable manipulation”. The paper actually conducted an in-depth study of the carbon credit business and made some very revealing findings”. Their investigation found:
? “Widespread instances of people and organisations buying worthless credits that do not yield any reductions in carbon emissions.
? Industrial companies profiting from doing very little – or from gaining carbon credits on the basis of efficiency gains from which they have already benefited substantially.
? Brokers providing services of questionable or no value.
? A shortage of verification, making it difficult for buyers to assess the true value of carbon credits.
? Companies and individuals being charged over the odds for the private purchase of European Union carbon permits that have plummeted in value because they do not result in emissions cuts.”
There is also the issues of what do those selling carbon credits do the reduce carbon dioxide emissions and are proponents of the idea merely using the global warming fanatics to line their pockets and do so-called environmentalists scam the system for political advantage.
For one example, The United Nations runs a scheme under the Kyoto Protocol that allows rich nations to invest in clean energy projects in developing countries and in return receive certified emissions reduction credits (CERs) to offset their own emissions. However the credits are being used on projects that would have gone ahead anyway. A UN commissioned report prepared by Germany’s Oeko Institute for Applied Ecology, said “projects lacking this so-called ‘additionality’ help increase gases blamed for global warming by giving firms a spurious justification for continuing to pollute”. “One out of five emissions reductions credits sold under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) lack environmental integrity”.
How about the use of carbon credit money to “fix” wetlands; does this reduce carbon dioxide emissions? The American Littoral Society received some help from the New Jersey legislature. New Jersey coastal wetlands were included as part of the legislature’s climate-change package passed in 2007. That law provides that future sales of carbon credits by energy companies and other big carbon dioxide emitters can be used to restore salt marshes. How does that alleviate the “problem” of greenhouse emissions?
Do conservation activities that allow trees to grow bigger differ from what would have occurred without the carbon payments? And when can you start measuring the difference? Are carbon offset trees growing bigger from a simple desire to do something good for the environment? And should that count as a carbon credit?
Or how about California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger use of carbon credits to justify his anti-environmental activities; is this what global warming fanatic supporters of the carbon credit system had in mind? Schwarzenegger will buy “carbon credits” in the Fred M. van Eck Forest, in the form of trees “allowed” to live and grow bigger and older so they can absorb more carbon dioxide. The purchase will offset some of the global-warming gas released during the governor’s frequent trips by private jet. (How do you allow trees to grow bigger; by not cutting them down?)
Anyone can buy credits like this when they purchase an airline ticket; generally for $10 to $15 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s roughly one person’s share of a commercial jet’s emissions in a round-trip flight across the country. But it is difficult to know exactly what the money buys because there is no accounting. Furthermore there is no agreement in the industry yet on what projects should count toward carbon credits.
For example, in California under AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, the state will cap its carbon dioxide emissions at 1990 levels, and carbon trading is expected to become commonplace as California tries to stay under the cap.
The city of Fargo, N.D. stands to earn more than half-a-million dollars each year from carbon credits.
What did the city do to earn those credits? They responded to citizen complaints about a smelly landfill. Fargo Solid Waste Manager Terry Ludlum can point to a map on the wall at the city landfill; it shows an aerial view of the landfill and it’s covered by red circles. Each of those circles represents a methane well and there are 40 of them on the 160-acre landfill.
As reported in a local paper, “A few years ago, as new developments sprouted near the city landfill, people started complaining about the smell. The smell was methane gas from the decomposing garbage buried under dirt. So the city put in wells and started pumping the methane out. First they burned it and then they started selling the gas to Cargill for heat to dry grain at a nearby grain elevator. Now the methane provides heat and electricity for the landfill operation, and extra electricity is sold to a local utility”.
Methane collected from the garbage now saves Fargo more than $300,000 a year. But that’s not all. Preventing all that methane from escaping in to the atmosphere earns the city carbon credits. Terry Ludlum explains, “If we say it’s worth $4.00 a metric ton, all of a sudden you’re dealing with $600,000 of income”. If the carbon market keeps trending up, Fargo’s annual carbon earnings could easily top a million dollars in a couple of years. Is this a great country or what?
Not only are individuals being scammed but the about the federal government is as well.
As part of the one-year-old “Green the Capitol” project to reduce the level of pollution created by members of Congress (and as we know that is quite a lot), the House purchased $89,000 in carbon offsets from the Chicago Climate Exchange, an offset brokerage company. The company then paid farms in the Midwest to take steps to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Carbon offsets were created to counterbalance the release of carbon into the air through practices such as planting trees, which feed off of carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, or employing companies to use non-carbon dioxide-producing fuels as energy.
Republican Representatives Joe Barton (R-Texas) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.) asked the GAO to look into “questionable purchases of carbon offsets” after recent media criticism of the venture revealed that while several farmers who had received money from the House purchase were actively sequestering carbon credits, they might not actually be using the money to further their carbon reduction efforts”.
This is what the carbon credit scam is all about; it’s a way to get paid for doing something you’d do anyway or not do at all. In this case, the beneficiaries may be small farmers but also include massive companies like Archer Daniels and Cargill. Generally it is major corporations that are pushing hardest for “Cap n’ Trade” legislation. General Electric is a major windmill producer and has the largest congressional lobbying budget of any company in the world. General Electric would receive a huge windfall if this so-called “market” is ever made mandatory or legalized even more than it already is.
As one columnist said, “There’s an elephant in global warming’s living room that few in the mainstream media want to talk about: the creators of the carbon credit scheme are the ones cashing in on it”.
The global carbon credit market is expected to be around $70 billion this year and this figure will grow exponentially as governments come on board with similar programs. Such an amount of money will attract scam artists worldwide. How can carbon credits be a good idea when you’re giving money to a project that doesn’t really need it or it isn’t used at all except to line someone’s pockets? Buying carbon credits might make you feel better about all the pollution you’re generating, but that doesn’t make it any less harmful, if it is, — especially since your carbon credit is more or less pointless.
Vincent Gioia is a retired patent attorney living in Palm Desert, California. His articles may be read at www.vincentgioia.com and he may be contacted at [email protected].