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[GreenYes] Re: Recycle Offset Credits?

Title: [GreenYes] Re: Recycle Offset Credits?

Hi Curt,

My response was pretty brief, so let me explain.

First, there's an important difference between voluntary offsets and
offsets within a cap-and-trade system. Voluntary offsets, as long as
they are genuine, should make a real difference. But offsets within a
cap-and-trade system effectively increase the overall cap. In other
words, if a company is limited to x tons of CO2 emissions (or
equivalent) annually, it can increase its emissions over that limit by
buying offsets from another company that claims to have taken that
amount of CO2 out of the atmosphere. So if you start a recycling
program, calculate the CO2 you take out of the atmosphere, and sell
those credits, a company somewhere else is going to buy those credits
and increase its CO2 emissions by the same amount. Thus, no net gain.

In fact, increasing the number of offset credits available tends to
depress their price (basic supply and demand), and therefore the cost of
CO2 emissions. That obviously decreases the incentive for companies to
invest in low- or no-emissions technologies. We've seen this dynamic in
Europe, where companies (unlike so far in the US) are bound by a
cap-and-trade system. Rather than investing in lower-carbon
technologies, they have created a mini-industry of discovering offset
credits in third world countries. The price of a ton of CO2 is now
something like 1 Euro (last I read) or $1.50 -- not high enough to make
any CEO think about switching to lower-carbon technology.

That's the theory. In practice -- for both voluntary and cap-and-trade
systems, things are even worse. Because there is no effective policing
of the market, lots of projects get offset credits which shouldn't --
either because they were happening anyway, or they don't really
sequester the carbon that they claim to. When that happens, it
essentially blows a hole in the cap-and-trade system. The project gets a
nice sum of money for not doing anything, and the credit purchaser gets
to increase their CO2 emissions without that CO2 being taken out of the
atmosphere elsewhere. Plus, there are often additional, unintended
consequences. In India, the carbon credits available for flaring HFCs
(used in refrigeration) are so lucrative that it has created incentives
for manufacturers to make more HFCs and flare them than they otherwise
would have -- exactly the opposite of the intended effect of offset
credits. And now tropical rainforest is being cleared for palm oil
plantations to make biodiesel -- largely because of the push for a
"carbon-neutral" fuel.

I agree that we cannot run a zero-carbon economy, and therefore we also
need to invest in projects that sequester carbon. But I think that
requires things like large-scale afforestation programs, which can be
financed by a carbon tax. Trying to let the market fix this problem --
which is essentially a problem of the global commons -- has so far



Curt McNamara wrote:
> I continue to be puzzled by this line of thinking.
> Background: I teach sustainability. My lifestyle is pretty low carbon 
> -- bike, eat low on the food chain, limited travel, buy used, live in 
> shared housing. Still I (and my students) can't get to one earth on 
> the footprint calculators.
> What to do? I make voluntary contributions to a non-profit 
> organization that invests the money in projects to capture carbon. 
> Mine are all third party certified.
> The line I heard: do everything you can, then offset the rest.
> Another way of looking at this comes from (Alex 
> Steffen). "We can't consume our way out of this mess." Translation: 
> make better decisions on daily actions (like zero waste) but also take 
> action to restore.
> Since this is a class theme, I am very interested in what all you 
> folks are doing to restore.
>                                                                                                       Curt
> On Jun 19, 2008, at 6:03 PM, Neil Tangri wrote:
>> Rightfully so, in my opinion. I'm not sure where they are planning on
>> selling these carbon credits, but in effect, carbon credits mean that
>> when you avoid emissions through recycling, someone else buys the 
>> credit
>> and increases their emissions by the same the net 
>> benefit to
>> the climate is zero. And while Urban Ore's emissions avoidance might 
>> be
>> real, many others are scams -- which means that the carbon trading
>> program simply becomes a way of buying one's way out of carbon caps.
>> The environmental justice groups have come out quite strongly against
>> carbon trading. There's a great book on the topic, very 
>> conversationally
>> written, available free on PDF here:
>> cheers,
>> Neil
>> Mary Lou Van Deventer wrote:
>>> At Urban Ore, one of our managers is investigating this carbon-offset
>>> idea for our company.  Our attorney just asked me if the manager is
>>> head of the Greenwashing Department.  We're kind of ambivalent 
>>> about it.
>>> Mary Lou Van Deventer
>>> Urban Ore
>>> 900 Murray St.
>>> Berkeley, CA 94710
>>> marylouvan@no.address
>>> On Jun 19, 2008, at 12:00 PM, Jewell, Rebecca wrote:
>>>> SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, Jun 19, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) ----Paul
>>>> Roszel, Chairman of RecycleNet Corporation (OTCBB: GARM)is pleased
>>>> to introduce the Recycling Offset Credit (ROCs) program. This
>>>> program provides a certified measurement system to recognize and
>>>> reward companies for their recycling efforts. RecycleNet will issue/
>>>> award Recycling Offset Credits (ROCs) for each ton of material
>>>> recycled by participants.
>>>> As a result of the increased awareness of climate change and global
>>>> warming, more and more people have become concerned about greenhouse
>>>> gas emissions and are developing strategies to reduce their carbon
>>>> footprint. Many companies, individuals and institutions have
>>>> implemented carbon neutral goals.
>>>> The Recycling Offset Credits (ROCs) program is an effort to provide
>>>> a universally recognized standard to measure and certify recycling
>>>> efforts and to demonstrate the economic impact of the recycling
>>>> industry. Recycling Offset Credits (ROCs) may be used to calculate
>>>> an equivalent offset of your carbon footprint.
>>>> RecycleNet Corporation invites any company, institution or
>>>> organization to participate in the voluntary ROCs program by
>>>> reporting materials recycled. There is no fee to participate and the
>>>> program is open and applicable to anyone in all stages of the
>>>> recycling/reverse distribution supply chain.
>>>> For more information and to participate in the Recycling Offset
>>>> Credits program please visit
>>>> About RecycleNet
>>>> RecycleNet operates The Online Secondary Commodities Exchange.
>>>> Founded in 1995, RecycleNet created a powerful platform to
>>>> facilitate the international trade of secondary commodities.
>>>> RecycleNet Corporation enables trade on a local, national and
>>>> international basis with customized sites locating markets around
>>>> the world in many different commodities. On any given day, there are
>>>> in excess of $200 million in new items listed within our exchanges.
>>>> Rebecca Jewell
>>>> Recycling Programs Manager
>>>> Davis Street Station for Material Recycling & Transfer
>>>> A Waste Management company
>>>> 510-563-4214
>>>> Fun Fact: Waste Management recycled more than 5 million tons of
>>>> commodities last year; preventing the release of more than 3.4
>>>> million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
> >

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