Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, November 09, 2007

Carbon Offsets, Pet Rocks and the International Star Registry

Someday, historians will classify carbon credits with pet rocks – a silly wasteful fad. But, it’s also one that I wish I had thought of. Actually, I did think of pet rocks. As an act of defiance against a landlord who abruptly banned pets, I found a nice river rock and anointed it as my pet. It sat on my windowsill for years before little “pet rock” boxes appeared in stores and sold for several bucks apiece. My big opportunity - missed! H. L. Mencken was right: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

But as dumb as pet rocks were, I really never could have imagined that there was enough guilt-ridden new money out there to make carbon credits a viable business venture. But then, it never would have occurred to me to peddle lunar real estate by the square inch or offer to name stars after sweethearts in the “International Star Registry.”
But, while the real money is to be made selling carbon offsets to private jet-setting Hollywood charlatans, you could probably make a few bucks by selling carbon credits to carbon credit wholesalers, like Al Gore. What do you have to sell? Well you have your electric oven, your electric lights, your air conditioner and your electric space heater. You don’t even have to reduce your electricity consumption to qualify. In fact a case could be made that the more you use the more you should be rewarded.
Somewhere in the Third World, a farmer is watering his crops using a treadle pump. And, he’s receiving a few cents a day from limousine liberals for not burning coal. A treadle pump very closely resembles those stair stepper exercise machines hocked in late night cable television infomercials. The difference is that for working out on a treadle pump, the Third World farmer irrigates his crops, whereas after a couple of days, the stair stepper ends up in a corner of the basement until the next church rummage sale.
A prominent carbon credit trading company called Climate Care will actually offset Al Gore’s private jet trips by paying a Third World treadle pump operator for the carbon dioxide he is not producing by using his own legs instead of a gasoline powered pump. Or the Goracle might offset the coal burned to warm his three mansions by paying an African family to cook using dried cow pies. I am not making this up. Some carbon trader somewhere is actually counting cow flops so that he can purchase and resell the carbon dioxide that would have resulted from burning oil.
Now, one would think that we have more than enough BS in this country to offset all the carbon dioxide produced since the dawn of the industrial age. But, domestic carbon trading involves shell games as well. And these shell games should make everybody in the Northwest eligible for carbon offset payments.
In Alaska, the Yup'ik Eskimo village of Kasigluk, formed a cooperative to build a small wind farm to reduce its dependence upon diesel generators. Fuel for those generators has to be barged in, as there are no suitable roads in that area of the marshy Yukon River delta. Nobody in the village was giving a thought to saving the planet. And it isn’t even costing them anything. The money is coming from a federal grant.
But, the village is going to profit from carbon trading anyway. The carbon trading company Native Energy immediately purchased 25 years worth of imaginary carbon emissions, 9000 tons worth, for $36,000, which it can resell to starlets for several times that value. Thanks to those Eskimos, Al Gore can guiltlessly fly coast-to-coast 300 times in a private jet, and keep his three mansions warm with enough left over for John Edwards.
So why can’t Northwesterners cash in? When we use electricity here, no carbon is produced. We’re hydroelectric and nuclear baby! Every kilowatt we use deserves carbon reimbursement just a much as a treadle pump. I wouldn’t mind if my electric bill were lower.
I really wish I had thought of this carbon trading. It’s big profits with no risk or capital investment. It wouldn’t require the physical labor of harvesting, packaging and shipping pet rocks. And, it would be great for laughs. How often do you sell new clothes to the emperor?

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