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United States The Almighty Buck

FTC Offput by Offsets 225

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-need-green-to-be-green dept.
theodp writes "US corporations and shoppers spent more than $54M last year on credits toward tree planting, wind farms, solar plants and other projects, prompting the FTC to question whether carbon-offset money is well spent. 'There's a heightened potential for deception,' said FTC Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras of the green-sounding offers that seem to be confronting consumers at every turn."
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FTC Offput by Offsets

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  • disgusting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jgarra23 (1109651) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @10:38PM (#21979382)
    I remember in high school reading about in the middle ages when people would buy offsets for their sins so they could get out of hell or something... not far off it sounds
    • Re:disgusting (Score:5, Informative)

      by sweetooth (21075) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @10:48PM (#21979462) Homepage
      You are thinking of Indulgence and certainly there are some similarities
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indulgence [wikipedia.org]
      • Re:disgusting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:09PM (#21979648)
        I like tree planting, wind farms, and solar plants - and therefore carbon offsets. I don't see the sin in emitting carbon if you are sequestering just as much somewhere else. HOWEVER, we definitely need legal definitions, standards, and truth-in-advertising enforcement for this type of thing. Companies are sure to go for the cheapest available carbon offsets, so government needs to ensure that they're legit.
        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by Loopy (41728)
          I'd like to see this, too, but you have a better chance of seeing Hillary Clinton swear off dissembling than you do of getting a straight answer anywhere around the global warming debate. Not to mention that even if you did get a fact-filled answer from someone here, it's almost guaranteed to be half the story (with the half not mentioned usually having to do with projected costs to taxpayers and industry).
          • "you have a better chance of seeing Hillary Clinton swear off dissembling than you do of getting a straight answer anywhere around the global warming debate"

            IANAClimatoligist, but ummm....what was the question again?
        • What would be the point?

          Let's say we can get carbon sequestration cheap enough that the typical person's (in a developed economy) entire carbon contribution can be sunk for ~$200/year.

          Then, say, the government ensure everyone sinks their contribution, so it's, in effect, scattered throughout the year via taxes on carbon.

          And let's further say that money is applied to removing the carbon from the atmosphere.

          Hell, let's sweeten the pot: all countries do same.

          Problem solved, right? No more net emissions. No m
          • by Anonymous Coward
            Quit whining about global warming!

            signed all of us living north of 43N latitude
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by catprog (849688)
            "Fossil fuels cause global warming" may be true. It's definitely *also* a rationalization for a separate, independent goal. reduction of consumption of a limited resource?
            • by mwlewis (794711)
              But that's a problem that takes care of itself--especially in absence of government interference/regulation in markets. Do you really think that's why certain groups advocate getting away from fossil fuels?
        • They aren't legit.

          Most of these offers are 2-6 dollars extra. But think about it. For a device that's usually on, you need to plany about one tree per watt, or generate a watt via solar/wind/tidal.

          That means that $2 tree planting you got offered with your last system is supposed to plant 150 (or more) trees.
        • Re:disgusting (Score:4, Insightful)

          by edunbar93 (141167) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @03:23AM (#21981156)
          Not just the cheapest possible carbon offsets, but very likely the least likely to actually *do* anything. There's a difference between Ford commissioning El Verde Grande LLC to plant trees in the Nevada desert (questions like "Are the trees even being planted" and "did the seedlings survive long enough to offset any carbon" come to *my* mind immediately) and Wayerhauser [wikipedia.org] actually hiring actual workers to actually plant trees that they actually expect to actually grow to maturity.

          While I know that some companies out there (say, Xcel Energy [xcelenergy.com] are indeed willing to offset their own emissions by replacing them with green technology (so long as the public is willing), the benefits of say Pearl Jam's CD production offsets, are a wee bit more vague.

          Personally, I would prefer to *invest* money (with the expectation of profits and return on investment and all that corporate greed stuff) in a company that directly helps [windturbinecompany.com] the environment than to "buy carbon offsets". At the very least, I get a nice profit-and-loss sheet and a decent understanding of what they did with my money (even at the risk of, well, you know [namebase.org]).
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by El Yanqui (1111145)
            Not just the cheapest possible carbon offsets, but very likely the least likely to actually *do* anything.

            I've decided to offset all of my carbon by hanging little evergreen air fresheners in people's cars.
            As has been mentioned before, it's far too close to indulgences for my liking. How about doing more to reduce and stop your pollution rather than this red herring. The idea of being carbon-neutral might be good in that it encourages people to do plant trees etc., but it seems many are viewing it as t
        • Sorry, its wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Shivetya (243324) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:44AM (#21981746) Homepage Journal
          Its a license to pollute. It is the ultimate expression of wealth. You are buying permission to pollute.

          All I saw at the recent get together for global warming supporters in Asia were people willing to save the environment because they are willing to make ME sacrifice. They, no, they have the money to buy themselves the right to destroy my environment and the political power to protect that right of theirs while taking mine away.

          Sorry, but the primary reason I destest Al Gore is his excessive resource use which he somehow thinks he absolves by buying trees. If he were truly serious about OUR environment he would cut back what he uses, not buy the right to abuse.

          There is nothing more arrogant than carbon credits : paying for excessive resource use and the right to pollute.
          • What if the trees do offset his carbon usage? What if they more than offset his carbon usage? We certainly need to re-tree South America and other regions to re-build our rainforests and other forests. While this happens, technology advances and we all start produce less carbon as a result. Improved powerplants, different products made available, etc...

            If we were all to suddenly stop our consumption, economies would be unable to absorb the change...bad things could happen.

            Also, many people are fat, dumb
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by mwlewis (794711)

              What if the trees do offset his carbon usage? What if they more than offset his carbon usage?

              Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that these offsets do what they claim. If he really believes in the apocalypse that he preaches about, instead of offsetting his heated pool, he could be offsetting the output of actions by other people, many of whom can't afford the luxury of buying offsets.

              Do as I say, not as I do is not a way to convince others of your sincerity. And if he doesn't believe that it mat

              • Sucks, but it is the truth. No matter what your joe-jobbing patriotic friends say about America, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The worst part? Many people in this nation think the rich got rich because of *snicker* merit.

                I understand your point. I personally ignore any and all laws if I can get away with them, because why should I obey our law when my government won't obey international law? WHy should I toe the line when police officers abuse the law they supposedly enforce.

                Railing agai
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sethawoolley (1005201)
            I agree, but I'd go a bit further.

            I think the worse sin is the fact that they are measuring amount of carbon. That's simply not complete. They should be measuring the difficulty of replacing the carbon it's supposed to offset and then investing directly in some technology that's supposed to do that.

            Buying wind power that's unusable to power an airplane means that. Donating to (not just investing in a company) that will actually promise to develop and give away a technology that enables airplanes to fly f
          • I'm sorry, but this is a pretty ridiculous perspective. If all you're concerned about is reducing the net emissions that lead global warming, you shouldn't care whether someone a) doesn't emit, or b) emits and then re-sinks the same amount. In that respect, certain indulgences *do* cancel your damage and are valid alternatives to reducing emissions.

            I strongly suspect that it's more than environmental damage that bothers you when people use fossil fuels. And that's okay! But don't be surprised when peopl
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Since everybody on this topic seems anti-carbon credit, I will provide my 2 cents (on the assumption that at least 1 organization does carbon credits correctly).

            I believe carbon credits to be a good thing. First, it shows a sense of responsibility. I don't buy carbon credits to show them off, I buy carbon credits out of a desire to neutralize my carbon.

            If I buy enough credits to cover the carbon I emit this year, then I've done more to protect the environtment than you. Period. It's not a license to p
        • by houghi (78078)

          emitting carbon if you are sequestering just as much somewhere else.


          Why somewhere else? Why not yjere where it happens as much as possible. The extra advatage is that many people will suddenly see what is going on. Another side effect is that cities will become much greener and cooler in the summer. That will lower the need of airco's and will thus need less energy.

          Obviously you can do both.
        • by Stiletto (12066)
          With the technology edge that we have in the USA, and the capacity to actually reduce our CO2 footprint, we should be SELLING credits, not buying them.
          • by AndersOSU (873247)
            That puts you into a dangerous game where you're selling credits for reducing carbon emissions, not decreasing total carbon emissions.

            See I can build a coal plant with no emission controls and get credit for reducing carbon emissions by putting even the most primitive scrubber on line (this is what China is doing). This might make more financial sense than just building a cleaner powerplant upfront. In order for any carbon-tax or cap-and-trade system to work, it has to account for every kilo of carbon, no
        • I don't see the sin in emitting carbon if you are sequestering just as much somewhere else.

          Because you're making the problem worse, not better.

          Consider what happens. You consume power in your home market, and pay for 'carbon offsets' to encourage the construction of a windfarm or solar plant in some other market.

          What price signal is your consumption sending in your home market? You're consuming more power, and you're sending the message "Demand is increasing! Build more dirty power plants!" Meanwhile, i
      • by BeanThere (28381)
        Well, there is an important difference, in that here the extra money paid (the 'premium') *is* actually supposed to go towards making the products carbon-neutral, even if in indirect ways, you're still buying something very specific and not made-up (*except* those few cases when you're being scammed, which is what the article is about --- i.e. they're not saying offset programs mean nothing, just that people are abusing it fraudulent to sell non-offsets as if they were offsets). W.r.t. indulgence, well, I d
    • And, it possibly may be worse... "carbon-offset" programmes are usually really "Greenhouse-Gas programmes"--i.e. they are meant to offset other greenhouse gases as well. This is usually converted (by some factor) into "equivalent carbon" which can be offset by tree-planting etc. The problem, as I understand it, is that there aren't any long-term studies (correct me if I am wrong) to determine how much carbon tree species "A" can sequest over a given period of time. Without this baseline data, surely the mod
      • Re:disgusting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Doppler00 (534739) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:21PM (#21979776) Homepage Journal
        Easy. After 20 years, cut the tree down, burn it, and measure the CO2 emissions it produces.

        Seriously though, what's the point of planting a tree? Are we saying that somehow by putting a tree sapling in the ground is going to be somehow more efficient than the native plants that would grow on that some spot of land and consume the same water etc...
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Psychotria (953670)
          I think there is the assumption that the trees will be planted on already cleared or degraded land. In Australia, at least, it is more than an assumption and a requirement.
        • Grasses die quickly and release back to the environment. Bushes last 10-20 years, but overall do not absorb a lot of CO2. In addition, they will go back to being CO2. OTH, a tree not only absorbs lots, but the CO2 can be pulled out nearly permanently. How? Because we can cut down the tree and make it something useful. While it is wood (alive or dead), it is not CO2.
    • Re:disgusting (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:02PM (#21979586) Homepage Journal
      Carbon offsets, unlike indulgences, have at least the potential to not be a scam.
      • by mike2R (721965)
        I dunno. I'm a convinced atheist and I'd put the scam potential at about the same...
    • Indulgences (Score:2, Informative)

      by Loki P (1170771)
      Tree planting is especially unlikely to work. There just isn't enough land to plant enough trees to soak up all our emissions. Do the calculations, or see http://www.ptua.org.au/myths/trees.shtml [ptua.org.au]
      • I think this is basically a summary of my previous comment. However, I am still divided on the merit of tree-planting projects. I don't know if they could work or not because I can't find any solid research. As your link also points out, there is the problem of "leakage". For example, carbon is stored in leaves, which fall to the ground, which eventually release the carbon back into the atmosphere. I've not seen any coherent studies that take this into account in a realistic way. Leaves dropping may seem tr
      • I don't see how planting trees helps in the long run, either. What would help is harvesting trees, then storing the wood (carbon) somewhere where it won't decompose or burn for at least thousands of years. In essence, turn the trees into coal. Then the land will be available to grow more trees, continuing the process. You would need to fertilize the forests to replace the minerals taken out with the wood, of course.

        It would probably be cheaper and less damaging to the environment to just stop mining coal
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)
      What's truly interesting is the parallel you've just drawn between Religion and the environmentalist movement. I recall reading a short Michael Crichton speech on how the environmental movement is religious in nature (some Slashdotters will no doubt be familiar with this one) and while I didn't think he was entirely on the mark, there were some interesting points - in particular, how Environmentalism is often a moral imperative than a practical one. To demonstrate this, propose to your favorite strong envir
      • Re:disgusting (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:57PM (#21980066)

        a perfectly clean source of infinite energy was readily, cheaply available - would this be a good thing for the world, or a bad one? Some contend that this is the worst thing that could ever possibly happen
        Just who contends that? Seriously.
        Sounds like a strawman argument to me.
        • Re:disgusting (Score:4, Insightful)

          by zippthorne (748122) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @12:26AM (#21980264) Journal
          I'm no environmentalist, but even I would be opposed to a cheap, perfectly clean source of infinite energy. Unless it came with a cheap, perfectly clean, readily available infinite heat-sink.
          • You only need the infinite heat sink if you need to dissipate infinite power. So, it's okay to have a source of infinite energy, as long as you don't try to use it all at once.

        • Re:disgusting (Score:5, Informative)

          by OakLEE (91103) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @12:27AM (#21980272)
          I believe what the grandparent is referring to is known as the Dark Green [wikipedia.org] sect of the environmental movement. These people tend to believe that it is not pollution that is the problem, but rather the current form of human civilization itself. Some of them see the continued growth and expansion of human civilization as the worst case scenario. Thus to these groups an unlimited, pollution-free source of power, which would enable unlimited growth and expansion of human civilization, would be a worst case scenario since it would allow for unbridled expansion.

          In my opinion these fringes of the environmental movement are merely using the whole "save mother Earth" as a front to push their true agenda, which is the desire to see civilization regress to an agrarian, survivalist [wikipedia.org], (maybe even subsistence,) state of existence.
        • Continuing the religion analogy that would be like saying that the worst case scenario for religious folks is to meet god.
        • Greenpeace (Score:2, Troll)

          by Card (30431)
          > Just who contends that? Seriously.

          Since you asked... did you know that Greenpeace opposes fusion research? In their own words [greenpeace.org]:

          Fusion energy - if it would ever operate - would create a serious waste problem, would emit large amounts of radioactive material and could be used to produce materials for nuclear weapons. A whole new set of nuclear risks would thus be created.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by radimvice (762083)

        And if these values are really important, people ought not tie them to a crisis (imagined or real) in the state of the environment, which I believe will some day (though not in any of our lifetimes) will be made utterly insignificant by technology.

        You're right, the environmentalists' unquestioning belief in the future crisis of humanity is indeed very much like the religious movement. I'm glad the futurists can set us straight on the logical path, toward our inevitable technological salvation.

      • > a perfectly clean source of infinite energy was readily, cheaply available

        The problem is what comes with the limitless growth and consumption that "free energy for all" would produce.
        I don't know where I stand or what shade of green I am, but there has to be a middle ground between turning the earth into a giant Borg sphere and regressing to Survivalism.

        It also doesn't take religious moral zealotry or a chicken-little mindset to think that the World Population Curve [wikipedia.org] is something to at least thin
      • Of course the difference between environmental movement and religion is that there is a lot of science to back the former up, so there is often a large grain to truth to what they are preaching. The problem is more the way they go about it. I don't like the way Greenpeace works, but I do like what they stand for, and I think a lot of people feel that way, compared to say, the perception of religion these days.
      • by chrb (1083577)

        Some contend that this is the worst thing that could ever possibly happen

        Looks like you've fallen for yet another untrue smear propagated by the right-wing.

        This is the religious/moral imperative

        This argument reminds me of one I had a long time ago. One of my friends claimed that science was a dubious religion, and you had to believe in it. I said no, science is a methodology, not a theology; you don't have to believe in it any more than you must believe in bricks and cement in order to build houses.

        I believ

      • It's unclear to me from your post if you're saying that the environmentalist claims of catastrophe are as unfounded and unprovable as religious claims of God and heaven or if you're just saying that carbon credits are as feel-good as indulgence was.

        Either way the situation is one in which the environmentalists cannot win. If they are right and nothing is done, it's the end of the world as we know it (that's bad). If they are wrong and nothing is done, it's life as usual (that's good). If they are right

    • by rush22 (772737)
      Say what you mean. Say "global warming is a hoax. global warming is a religion. I do not care about my effect on the Earth. I do not care about pollution."

      Say it, science-lover. Say it, technology-lover. Say it, nerd. This is news for nerds isn't it? My, my I was thinking it was "news for idiot c-student video gamer pretards who have no clue when it comes to actual science, ignorant moron gadget dorks rooting for the 'winning team of science' because it makes them feel smart while having absolutely no ide
    • by mccabem (44513)
      In large measure, this is also what drove enrollment in many if not all of the crusades. The church offered that if you go and kill muslims in the holy land that you would still get into heaven even if you'd been a sinner at home.

      Church is awesome.

      -Matt
  • From the article:

    The FTC has not updated its environmental advertising guidelines, known as the Green Guides, since 1998. Back then, the agency did not create definitions for phrases that are common now--like renewable energy, carbon offsets and sustainability.
    This is a good example of the sluggish response of big government. Perhaps a bit of that carbon offset money should be spent on updating some federal publications and collecting feedback from citizens.

  • by Thornae (53316) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @10:45PM (#21979428)
    I find it highly ironic that the ad I got with this story was for "Rackspace Green Server Configurations".

    • by StefanJ (88986) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @10:58PM (#21979534) Homepage Journal
      You could have a whole industry of finger-pointers and fact checkers looking into the effectiveness of offset claims.

      The example of green server farms doesn't strike me as ludicrous or faddish. It's really easy to measure things like power consumption.

      Siting would in part determine where the power is coming from. You could also do cool things like setting up in a northern state that gets lots of snow, and use ice ponds [time.com] to assist the air conditioning.

      It's conceivable that big farms could invest in local alternative energy plants as a way of stabilizing long-term costs and priority during shortages.

      You could back up wind power with an investment in "methane farming" at a local landfill. Methane could be stored and "burned" in a fuel cell stack when the grid or wind farm can't supply cheap and/or "green" juice.
  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:05PM (#21979616)

    So these wankers at the FTC have been sitting around with their thumbs up their butts for 10 years instead of offering some legally-defensible "green" definitions that could have been whipped off in a few days. Now they're concerned that companies are seeking to take advantage of peoples' concern for the environment because they've been throwing money toward wind and solar energy, and the like.

    Go back to sleep, you useless pack of oxygen wasters. We'll work it out for ourselves. I guess they're really concerned that a penny spent on enviro-fraud is a penny not spent on fossil-fraud.

    • by bperkins (12056) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:40PM (#21979938) Homepage Journal
      I don't think that's particularly fair. The FTC doesn't have the time of the resources to chase every marketing term out there, and these definitions are horribly muddy. For example, it took many years before the government (the FDA if memory serves) could agree on a definition of organic. This wasn't due to lack of need or desire or even trying, it was because the industry just couldn't agree on it.

      "Green" marketing terms are even worse. Some would claim that nuclear power is green, while others would not. Some think paper bags are green, while others think plastic is green. Is corn-based ethanol green if the fertilizer used to grow it ends up killing off most of the Gulf of Mexico? I doubt you could nail down any of these definitions in a few months, let alone a few days.

      Finally, carbon offsets are relatively new, and problematic from a consumer perspective. It's difficult to verify that way you're paying for is being done, and almost entirely impossible to verify that someone isn't selling offset multiple times. Even if you could, you can never be quite sure that someone isn't selling you a false offset. This industry is totally ripe for fraud, and it seems reasonable for the FTC to look into it.

      • And recycling isn't. The more non-recycled paper you buy, the more trees must be planted to fuel the demand, and ... well, there you go, more trees.

        I should get a carbon credit (what's the unit of that anyway?) every time I buy a ream of paper.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jelizondo (183861) *

      Hey Man! Don't rush to conclusions!

      with their thumbs up their butts

      They were accumulating methane to burn when their wind (hot gas) turbines weren't capable of supplying enough juice...

  • All Hogwash! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by no-body (127863) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:15PM (#21979712)
    In Germany, the power companies are selling electricity generated by coal and atomic power stations as "green" electricity i. e. people signing up for green (derived from resuable resources - wind, sun, tides) are to be environmentally mindful get just the opposite.

    They feel cheated, are mad, protest and sue.

    Whole parts of cities all of a sudden are using "green" electricity, which is impossible because the resources are not there.

    The power companies can do that because they buy carbon credits (or whatever that excuse to just go on as usual is called).

    The corporations buy the polititians (as one can see clearly on the money spent currently greasing the US 2008 elections) and then weak laws with loopholes and missleading names (1984-style) are made.
    • Re:All Hogwash! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CajunArson (465943) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:28PM (#21979838) Journal
      Considering the carbon emissions of atomic power are 0 that's a pretty good "offset", although I think the entire thing is a scam to separate over-indulged yuppies with guilty consciences from their money.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Mesa MIke (1193721)
        Yup.

        Corporations don't really care whether the carbon offsets they buy actually do offset their emissions. They only care that they get to claim to be "green."

        "Green" is just marketing hype to draw in the narcissistic types who want to feel good about themselves for "doing something," without actually having to do anything other than looking for the buzzword.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by no-body (127863)
        Atomic power is not considered as "green" and people promoting the environment mostly oppose it and for good reasons. On this topic, btw.:

        A recent study over there (GE) - done by respectable research bodies and ordered either by the government or the entity overseeing the atomic energy industry - has found an increase of children leukemia out of the average the closer the kids are living to an atomic power station.

        The puzzling fact is that this cannot be explained by radiation levels since those are
        • by smaddox (928261)
          Link?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by smilindog2000 (907665)
            I found a relevant link [wiley.com]. I live 17 miles from a power plant I firmly believe was the motivation for "The Simpsons", and I have two small children. At this distance, I suspect air pollution and stupidity at the plant are bigger health risks to my family.

            Here in NC, we poison ourselves in many different ways. I have some old gas in my garage because my boat-mechanic told me to just pour it on the ground when I asked where I could find his recycling bucket. That was 100m from a major reservoir. I got our
          • by no-body (127863)
            Link?

            (in DE - you may have to run it through a translater)

            From:

            sueddeutsche.de Debatte um Atomenergie-Gefahren Kranke Kinder und eine alte Streitfrage - Wissen [sueddeutsche.de]:

            Das Risiko nimmt mit der Nähe zu

            Die Forscher unter der Leitung der Mainzer Epidemiologin Maria Blettner stellten fest, dass zwischen 1980 und 2003 im Umkreis von fünf Kilometern um die Reaktoren 77 Kinder an Krebs, davon 37 an Leukämie, erkrankt waren. Im statistischen Durchschnitt seien 48 Krebs- beziehungsweise 17 Leu
        • Re:All Hogwash! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by CajunArson (465943) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @12:28AM (#21980280) Journal
          Please present some actual evidence for everything you just said, and some conspiracy-nut eco-lobbying website does not count. I grew up in Pennsylvania, home of Three Mile Island. If you had been standing at the exhaust vent where the (minute) amount of radiation was released and had been intentionally trying to suck down everything from the accident, you would have received LESS radiation than if you had hidden out in your basement in Harrisburg for 3 months following the accident... you know why? Radon! There has never been anything even approaching evidence that this "accident" ever injured anyone, and that is the worst-case scenario of anything that GE has ever been involved int.

                If anything I'd say you are in on the scam and are trying to scare people into "saving the earth" by lining your own pocketbook while the US destroys its economy and China pollutes all it wants since somehow dirty coal burned in China is "green" but clean nuclear power in the US is terrible.
        • the scam is to allow big polluters a back door by buying credits and not having to clean up the mess they are putting into the athmosphere
          That's the best explanation I've seen of how Al Gore is both a big polluter and a scam artist.
        • by Rix (54095)
          Sane, rational people do not oppose atomic energy. The only people who don't consider it green are the technophobic wingbats who'd like to see us revert to a hunter gatherer lifestyle (and you'd better not be using flint tools).
          • by no-body (127863)
            Sane, rational people do not oppose atomic energy.

            Maybe smart people allow a differerent perspective:

            Case a:
            atomic fuel + atomic power plant = electricity
            assumed to be cheap and good

            versus

            Case b:
            raw material + lot of energey = atomic fuel + radiating waste
            atomic fuel + atomic power plant = electricity + more radiating waste

            What is the total effort in energy, the potential long term risk, and is it worth it or are there better alternatives?
            Have you seen a sane, rational discussion of th
        • the scam is to allow big polluters a back door by buying credits and not having to clean up the mess they are putting into the athmosphere.

          That's one of the major points of cap-and-trade systems. By allowing a large corporation (A) to buy carbon credits from another corporation (B) instead of cleaning up / lowering their emissions, the costs are minimized. Notice that just because A doesn't have to clean up their emissions, B instead will have to. Regardless of where on the buy-credits-or-cleanup scale A

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by alexhmit01 (104757)
          I could not disagree more - the scam is to allow big polluters a back door by buying credits and not having to clean up the mess they are putting into the athmosphere.

          Do you know what else is a scam? The fact that I can go to work, earn money, then pay the power company to generate my electricity instead of generating it myself. What you're calling a scam is the same use of trade that we use everyone else in the economy, and allows specialization and creation of wealth.

          Trade is the basis of a modern econo
        • by mollymoo (202721) *

          A recent study over there (GE) - done by respectable research bodies and ordered either by the government or the entity overseeing the atomic energy industry - has found an increase of children leukemia out of the average the closer the kids are living to an atomic power station.

          I recall a study here in the UK which found something similar - but interestingly, they found similar clustering at proposed sites of nuclear power plants, not just operating ones, which suggests the geology which is good for bui

      • by whoever57 (658626)

        Considering the carbon emissions of atomic power are 0
        Actually, there are people seriously arguing that atomic power stations produce more carbon than they save. The problem is that building and fueling an atomic power station takes a considerable amount of energy. The argument seems to hinge on how much fuel can be created by breeder reactors and how much must be mined and refined.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @11:22PM (#21979786)
    On a related note, could Slashdot possibly implement a karma-offset programme where we can trade and share karma? This way trolls could easily offset their trollishness by buying karma off the slashdot-karma-trading-system.
  • Say, YOU don't have to feel guilty about emitting all those nasty green house gases. All you gotta do is cough up the money (to me, of course) to pay for Carbon Indulgences... Oh, and don't ask me whether I can show that what I use the money for actually offsets your sinful carbon dioxide effluence. Just trust me....
  • Self Off-Setting (Score:2, Interesting)

    by oznog (837101)
    While I'm sure there is a place for commercial and not for profit carbon offsetting I've never really understood while individuals, households, businesses etc don't self offset. What I mean is invest better technology. So instead of handing over hard-earned cash so someone can plant trees, why not put the money towards a solar system for your home, a new bike so you can ride to work, or put it aside so you can afford a more energy efficient fridge when the current one needs to be replaced.
  • by Sanat (702) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @12:40AM (#21980372)
    The water source for the Glouster, Ohio area is gotten from Burr Oak Lake which is man made here in the Appalachians. A dam was placed across a valley and made this huge lake.

    People would drive from 15 - 20 miles away with containers to gather the water for drinking because it was so pure.

    When the coal mine started producing coal approx 8 years ago all of the tailings would wash from Sunday creek area into the Lake and now it is dangerous to even drink the water because of all of the impurities.

    What did the coal company do about it? They bought some of these "free passes"

    So now that the coal mine is closed and another is now opened about 3 miles further up the road.

    And residences of Glouster, Trimble, Jacksonville, and Burr Oak now have tainted water for ever.

    The "Free Pass" is just the cost of doing business for the big companies and has nothing to do with the local residence to whom the coal company should feel responsible for fixing what they broke.

    • I don't live in Glouster, Ohio so I'll just take your claim that the water doesn't taste good anymore at face value. (Although it appears the fish don't mind: http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Home/FishingSubhomePage/LakeMapLandingPage/BurrOakLakeFishingMap/tabid/19488/Default.aspx [state.oh.us]) So that was the cost -- what was the benefit?

      How many folks in the area are able to feed their families because of the coal mines? How many folks in the area did not freeze to death this December because their houses had access to c
      • by Sanat (702)
        I do not disagree with any of your points in fact they are often my points too.

        The focus I was making was of the "Credits" that large companies can buy from the government so that they can create environmental messes without the need to clean them up. The whole ground around this area has "Yellow Boy" everywhere which is high acidic liquid that has a host of microbes that thrivew at the high acid environment.

        Our water treatment plant now has to deal with this. The whole watershed from the mine runs directly
  • I think this sort of thing is all fine and good, but I don't think it will be sustainable until self-interest is the root cause of this sort of behavoir.

    In other words, I'm okay with high gas prices, even at very great (I'm unemployed) inconvenience to myself, because I know it's the only way we'll ever wean ourselves off fossil fuels.  Which is in my longer term self interest, since I enjoy breathing.
  • Well, no shit Sherlock.

    Lets see, we allow people to pay lots of money in order to spew extra amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Yea, we should all be shocked this one didn't work out well in the end. If one truly believes that this is wrong then doing so is, well, wrong. Most realize this though many want to rationalize why they can continue to do so.

    How many would support increasing the costs of a Hummer by enough to "offset" the carbon impact and then declare this just as "green" as an alternative fue
  • I almost crashed the car when Rush claimed several weeks ago that all of the carbon-credit trees Gore had planted burned down in the SoCal fires late last year.
  • Ya think? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:16AM (#21982468) Journal
    1) The 'carbon trading system' is itself non-progressive, in the sense that it promotes NOTHING in the sense of preventing the emission of carbon. All people are doing is justifying their carbon emissions by pointing at some other carbon sequestration going on somewhere else. Sure, there is a TINY incentive to perform carbon sequestration but since there is so much capacity elsewhere and the revenue generated by incremental change is infinitesimal, that's really no incentive at all.

    2) "There's a heightened potential for deception" - ya think? A globe-spanning system of compelling people into spending their money, which is neither monitored, audited, nor regulated by any objective authority. One might think that there would be an incentive for the members which feed off that system...be they scientists getting grants to study it, former government officials who are paid ridiculous fees to talk about it (& they get world recognition and adulation, itself a useful currency), or the mandarin who pass these off as genuine transactions ... might have an incentive to overvalue what they are selling? I'd be curious to see how many of the alleged owners of carbon credits (which should be anyone that owns forestland or farmland, right?) ACTUALLY have seen a dime of the guilt-money wrung from the first world on their behalf. It's White Guilt that you can absolve with CASH! W00t! Perfect for your (white) wealthy urbanite who feels that somehow they don't deserve the abundance around them. Now they can sleep with the peace of moral certitude, for only $X.

    I stand on a beach. The tide has rolled out. I say "look at all this cool free land that nobody owns!" and my friends and I promptly build houses on it. When the tide inevitably rolls back in, I cry to the government that they must save us, and I make a tendentious movie purporting to prove that the tide has only now rolled in since humans built on the beach, that it MUST be humans' fault.
    Different time scales, but otherwise just as stupid.

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