12 January, 2006

Good idea, bad idea

Check out TerraPass, an "eco-capitalist" venture. The premise is this:

Every car produces a certain amount of CO2 annually. However, if we offset that production of CO2 by reducing our production somewhere else by a commensurate amount, then the net effect of driving is essentially zero. In real-world terms, this can be achieved via the Chicago Climate Exchange, where greenhouse-gas production credits are traded. If we buy up credits and "retire" them, then we are increasing the real-world value of production credits and thus forcing companies to conserve more. TerraPass, the product of a Wharton professor and his students, does exactly this.

The Chicago Climate Exchange seems like a good idea, and it actually has some teeth to it. Although its membership is small, not even a thousand companies, it accounts for 230 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, which is something like 4-5% of U.S. annual production. Not bad. And its emissions-reduction performance is also reasonable.

And the idea of "retiring" credits also seems relatively sensible. There's other organizations that do this; the other one on the CCX is Carbonfund.org, which is based on a similar premise to TerraPass; reduce your footprint by giving them money, which they'll use to retire credits on the Exchange.

But I vastly prefer Carbonfund to TerraPass. Why? Simple: marketing. TerraPass sells itself as a way to reduce the guilt of driving. First, your TerraPass footprint is based entirely on your car's gas mileage (which, by the way, underestimates your car's CO2 footprint, since the energy returned on energy invested for gasoline is at least as bad as crude oil, which is 20:1) instead of a more comprehensive assessment of your total lifestyle. Second, their "product" is a sticker you can put in your car window, or on your bumper, showing what a good citizen you are. Third, all their press indicates that this is what they are offering to people.

Not to be unreasonably vicious about this, but people really should be made to suffer for the crime of driving. I say this simply because they need to be encouraged to stop, or at the very least drive 95% less. The last thing that we need is more ways to stabilize car culture, which is explicitly what TerraPass offers. (See their TerraBlog if you are unconvinced.)


so then what about TerraPark. put your car on blocks for 2 days a week and a corporate honcho gets to kill a puppy. you get $500 a month for this. 

Posted by david

We need to ban windshields.  

Posted by hedgey

what about something like your vehicle license and driver's license fees are free if you achieve a certain percentage reduction in mileage (on all vehicles owned)? or meet a target for person miles? plus you could get a pretty green version of the driver's license that would get you discounts on transit cards and things like that.

(pointless totally unoriginal comment about carbon exchange programs. i'm sick of every cost industry doesn't want to pay getting thrown at the public individually or via subsidy. i wouldn't mind it if the conversion programs were like japan's - real, effective, industry-driven, goal-driven, fully funded, IOW putting ol' smokey to bed without any(corporate)body getting kicked in the teeth by competitors. next to such programs CCX looks like a lame excuse for deep-pocketed companies to defer maintenance and upgrades until "somebody does something." like depending on private donations to fund social services, it's nowhere near enough money to do the job right. going green needs to be the cost of doing business, period, the same way that facilities have to have working fire and chemical suppression equipment. we're still at the "on-site fires aren't that bad and aren't that common" stage.) 

Posted by david

the program could be called GreenHouseHero. which sounds incredibly lame but would with the right graphics totally win people over, particularly if it got called something like g*hero which would look attractive painted on the side of a cargo plane. 

Posted by david

My greenhouse hero . You can make them yourself with a bit of brass tubing and a dremmel tool. Works on cop cars, too. 

Posted by hedgey

I agree with Carbonfund.org guys. I think their project is great, their intentions good, and I dont doubt their are putting the best on it. But I have to be realistic. I guess 60 dollars a year cannot do nothing against facts like the one which says a Land Rover sends 8000 kilograms of co2 per year to the atmosphere. If we want to contribute in the fight against the rainbow effect, lets bet for hybrid cars, solar heatings at home and wind mills. Unfortunately, good intended ideas are not always the best ones...
More about what I think in

Posted by coco

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