Monday, October 22, 2007

Carbon offsets a budding business

Participation by U.S. companies, individuals is voluntary, but growing

From the Contra Costa Times:

Carl Morris wasn't trying to save the planet when he spread a 7-acre sheet of black vinyl over Joseph Farms' new cow manure lagoon in 2004. His goal was to capture methane to generate electricity.

To his surprise, he found he could do both -- and get paid for it.

"As soon as we started generating, I got a cold call," he said.

The dairy farm became a supplier of "offsets," marketable credits purchased by companies or others trying to compensate for the amount of carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gases they emit. His manure-digesting system has generated a stash of greenhouse gas offsets -- some of which Morris has sold, some of which he's keeping -- worth nearly $250,000 at current market prices.

Joseph Farms is on the front end of a boom. Offsets are a lucrative if somewhat controversial industry, a $5 billion-a-year global business spawned by the fight against global warming.

By purchasing offsets, individuals or companies unable to reduce their own "carbon footprint" are paying others that can. One glamorous example: To compensate for the carbon exhaust from his private jet, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has donated money to a North Coast forest that has restricted its logging activities. Voila: His jet travel becomes "carbon neutral."...MORE