Monday, July 2, 2007

Cattle, Carbon and Conifers

Many years ago my father told me about his experience with a cattle operation (the tax deal du jour).
One fine spring day he decided to head out to South Dakota; He had a good excuse for a road trip.

The way he told it, he and some of the ranch staff were standing on a ridge looking out over hundreds, if not thousands, of head of cattle and he asked the assistant foreman "which ones are mine?" "None of them", the cowboy responded,
"Yours all died"

I am reminded of that story by this headline at Treehugger:

Zerofootprint Guides: Offsetting, Part 2 - The Additionality Issue In Offsetting

Why?; you would be fully justified in asking.

Because the way my father told it, his story was an object lesson in issues of co-mingling, identification, allocation of profits (or losses) and possibly hypothecation.

My reaction would have been closer to "Where's my bleepin' bovines?"

My favorite carbon offsetting story is from the Isle of Skye, earlier this year:

ROCK stars, multinational corporations and others keen to offset their climate-wrecking pollution by investing in a flagship Scottish forest have been misled, an investigation by the Sunday Herald can reveal.

Bands such as the Rolling Stones, companies such as Volvo and numerous individuals have paid out thousands of pounds in the belief that the money would be used to plant trees on Skye. But according to the forest's managers and the contract governing the deal, that is not what the money was spent on.

What people actually bought were the "carbon rights" to trees that were being planted anyway, thanks to government grants. And the amount they were charged per tree was 18 times more than the amount that was directly invested on their behalf.

Get it? In essence they were getting to put their name on a tree.
Where's my friggin' fir?

Skye story from Rob Edwards, Environment Editor, The Sunday Herald (Scotland); Cow story: Dad.