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FTC Offput by Offsets

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the you-need-green-to-be-green dept.

United States 225

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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225 comments

disgusting (5, Insightful)

jgarra23 (1109651) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 (4, Informative)

sweetooth (21075) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979462)

You are thinking of Indulgence and certainly there are some similarities
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indulgence [wikipedia.org]

Re:disgusting (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:disgusting (1, Flamebait)

Loopy (41728) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979960)

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).

Re:disgusting (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980508)

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 more global warming. Full environmental cost of carbon is contained.

Raise your hand if you think the cries for reducing fossil fuel consumption would end. Okay? You there, with your hand up: I want what you're smoking.

"Fossil fuels cause global warming" may be true. It's definitely *also* a rationalization for a separate, independent goal.

Global Warming FTW (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980638)

Quit whining about global warming!

signed all of us living north of 43N latitude

Re:disgusting (2, Insightful)

catprog (849688) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981110)

"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?

Re:disgusting (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980514)

Companies are sure to go for the cheapest available carbon offsets...

The cheapest carbon offset offers seem to come from Nigeria. You just e-mail your credit card information...

Re:disgusting (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980630)

I am liking grammatically correctful sentences, but I'm not too worrified by uncorrect spellings and odd expressifications.

Re:disgusting (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980634)

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 (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979488)

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 models based on how much carbon a tree can offset are nothing more than a stab in the dark(?) Therefore, how can one determine that planting X tree will offset X tonnes of carbon?

Re:disgusting (4, Insightful)

Doppler00 (534739) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979776)

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:disgusting (2, Informative)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979812)

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.

Re:disgusting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980410)

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...


Well in a lot of cases I'd have to say, yes, the tree will be more efficient at tying up carbon over its lifetime and afterwards as opposed to grasses.

The tree will grow vertically and spread out horizontally which vastly increases the surface area of its foliage for absorbing CO2 and the trunk, branches and twigs required to support the foliage will tie up quite a bit of carbon for many years. Unless its foliage is extremely thick or the tree exudes chemicals that prevent the growth of other plants then it does not preclude the growth of ground cover or scrub beneath it. Even after the death of the tree the carbon in the branches and trunk will be tied up for some time as the decay process proceeds. In some areas decay could be extremely rapid while in other areas decay could take years or decades to fully release the contained carbon.

Grasses covering the same area on the ground as the foliage of a tree don't come close to using the same amount of carbon as does the tree and the carbon locked up in the grass will cycle back into the environment much more rapidly when the grass dies in the fall or winter.

Brush / shrubbery / scrub undergrowth is somewhere between grasses and tree on amount of carbon locked up and longevity.

Re:disgusting (2, Interesting)

onemorechip (816444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980476)

the surface area of its foliage for absorbing CO2

Your conclusions are correct, but I don't know why you'd need to consider surface area at all. Ultimately, isn't it the amount of carbon sequestered directly proportional to the mass of the grown plant? I don't know what percentage of a tree is carbon, but if the tree weighs a ton you multiply that percentage by one ton, and you have the answer. Ignoring what are probably small differences in carbon percentage, I'd think a one-ton pine tree would sequester as much carbon as a one-ton oak tree, even with different foliage surface areas.

Re:disgusting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21981092)

Your conclusions are correct, but I don't know why you'd need to consider surface area at all. Ultimately, isn't it the amount of carbon sequestered directly proportional to the mass of the grown plant? I don't know what percentage of a tree is carbon, but if the tree weighs a ton you multiply that percentage by one ton, and you have the answer. Ignoring what are probably small differences in carbon percentage, I'd think a one-ton pine tree would sequester as much carbon as a one-ton oak tree, even with different foliage surface areas.


With regards to surface area I was thinking of the surface area of the foliage on the tree being larger than the surface area of the grasses that would grow in the ground area covered by the tree (foliage included) which would allow the tree to absorb more CO2 than the grasses. Sorry if I wasn't clear about that.

I do agree with you that two one-ton trees of different species would each seem to sequester just about as much carbon even with differing foliage surface areas.

Re:disgusting (4, Insightful)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979586)

Carbon offsets, unlike indulgences, have at least the potential to not be a scam.

Indulgences (2, Informative)

Loki P (1170771) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979636)

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]

Re:Indulgences (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979714)

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 trivial, but given that most trees planted for carbon-uptake purposes have an "expected" life of 76-100 years, this would add up (not to mention all the other ways leakage could occur). Thank-you for the link.

Re:disgusting (3, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979808)

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 environmentalist that 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 (or otherwise Not Good). This is the religious/moral imperative angle.

I appreciate, to a certain extent, some of those best parts of the personal-level environmental-religious aesthetic - some sort of humility / thrift / not-wastefulness / self-denial of any individual's actions, but I do not approach them from the same environmental angle, make the same assumptions about the state of said environment, or attempt to push this agenda with it. 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.

And, for a less topical aside, as for your reference to indulgences, it could be said that to give of your money, to give of your labors, is to give of yourself, and while the Catholic church has never generally held that one achieves salvation through one's own actions but rather by the grace of God, giving is nevertheless a good and desirable thing. One can and should condemn the charlatans who preyed on the ignorant in this regard, corruption in their sales from the clergy, wastefulness of funds, and other degenerations of the practice. However, one should be prepared to acknowledge that while the idea that one can obtain some measure of God's grace from giving is certainly not universally accepted or necessarily true, is at least reasonable and plausible. (I leave aside for this post the Protestant-related objections of the authority of the Church to authorize them.) The common knee-jerk reaction that the matter of indulgences is one altogether deplorable, utterly unholy, or otherwise intrinsically wrong is naught but simple narrow-minded religious and ideological intolerance: never a healthy foundation for an agenda or ideological exercise.

Re:disgusting (3, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 (3, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980264)

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.

Re:disgusting (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980368)

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 (1)

onemorechip (816444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980490)

Then the energy stored inside the thing would have infinite mass, so we'd all be dead anyway.

Re:disgusting (1)

clsours (1089711) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980558)

Perhaps grandparent meant eternal energy instead of infinite.

Re:disgusting (4, Informative)

OakLEE (91103) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:disgusting (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980914)

The description at wikipedia suggests otherwise. To my eye it says that Dark Greens are opposed to the continued growth of the human civilization not because growth is inherently evil but because growth has an impact on the environment. IMO, a truly unlimited and pollution-free source of power would enable zero-impact expansion of civilization which ought to pass muster with the Dark Greens too.

Re:disgusting (1)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980306)

Continuing the religion analogy that would be like saying that the worst case scenario for religious folks is to meet god.

Greenpeace (1, Troll)

Card (30431) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980594)

> 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:Greenpeace (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980898)

Since you asked... did you know that Greenpeace opposes fusion research?
From what you quoted it sure does not sound like that.
What it does sound like is that Greenpeace opposes radioactive waste and nuclear weapons.
Is that really so surprising?

To obtain God's Grace (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980274)

...you must give bolognese sauce.

Re:disgusting (2, Insightful)

radimvice (762083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980632)

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.

Re:disgusting (1)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981028)

> 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 think seriously about.

The problem is simply this: There is only one planet available to us. Everyone is trying to make sure we don't fsck it up. We don't get a do-over.
With respect to that, even the Deep Greens have their place. It's the kind of issue that rightly generates a lot of passion.
What we really need is far more dispassionate inquiry and concern. We can't afford to be dismissive of that curve.

Re:disgusting (1)

rush22 (772737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980084)

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 idea how to play the game" for a second there.

Re:disgusting (1)

Paradoks (711398) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980584)

Thanks for being an excellent example for your cause, whatever it is.

By the way, I love the assault on reason by Al Gore.

It's an excellent idea for a book.

Stop, collaborate and listen! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21979412)

Hammertime! [thepounder.com]

Re:Stop, collaborate and listen! (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979458)

I figured the link in the parent post was a troll, but clicked it anyways... stupid me. That is genuinely disturbing, and I mean that in a psychologically painful sort of way. Wow.

Re:Stop, collaborate and listen! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21979542)

what has been seen... can not be unseen

Slow moving government... (2, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979424)

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.

Re:Slow moving government... (-1, Flamebait)

coaxial (28297) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979908)

A sluggish response of a Republican government.

Re:Slow moving government... (0, Offtopic)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980062)

Dude, as a Libertarian I'm always disappointed in our government. The Republican party had a chance to make serious fiscal reform 10 years ago, and ruined it by jumping into bed with the Christian Coalition over some supposed "moray majority" bullshit. The Democratic party pisses me off in many, many ways as well. Neither major party is really worth a damn, and as a result I'm never happy.

Re:Slow moving government... (1)

Khaed (544779) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980252)

Sorry, I'll never trust or be satisfied with any government in any shape or form. Not that I'm saying we should do without government (I'm not an anarchist) but the people with the power are to be questioned and challenged to do better, since they're doing it with our money.

Republican or Democrat, they're all politicians, and politicians are dangerous when trusted.

Re:Slow moving government... (1)

duck0 (1073338) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980276)

Yes indeed, binding the carbon into red tape is a way of removing it from the environment (for a while).

"Green-sounding offers" (2, Funny)

Thornae (53316) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979428)

I find it highly ironic that the ad I got with this story was for "Rackspace Green Server Configurations".

That's accountable though! (3, Interesting)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979534)

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.

FTC (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21979450)

The Federal Tigger Commission.

not to be confused with the Federal Nigger Commission, aka the Democratic Party.

Re:FTC (2, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979474)

I'm going to burn some karma here while replying to a troll. So sue me. I direct the following at the parent poster:

Fuck you and the cunt of a mother you were expelled from, you stinking little fucktard racist prick.

Thank you, I feel much better now.

Re:FTC (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21979582)

I see we found us a Democrat!

Re:FTC (0, Offtopic)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979690)

Actually, I'm a conservative libertarian (who also happens to be caucasian, if you were wondering). That post just happened to push my "holy freaking crap what a fucktard" button. I hate stupidity in any form, with many of the worst examples being the perpetuation of pointless and unjustified abuse of any demographic. As far as politics go, in the upcoming election, I'm telling everyone I know the same thing: we can argue all day long about who you're voting for, but for God's sake, vote!

Re:FTC (2, Funny)

Handover Phist (932667) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979618)

Too bad there isn't a 'Justified' mod option.

Re:FTC (1)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980058)

As at 0455GMT he has been moderated +3 insightful, that's close enough to justified for me.

Re:FTC (1)

Khaed (544779) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980308)

I'd be happy if /. would just find a way to filter these idiots. Here's an idea in pseudo-code:

if(poster = AC && postcontains nigger = true)
                DON'T LET THE IDIOT POST!

I'd say just completely block the word but at least signed-in users could be dealt with if there's not a reason for it (ie, me using it in this post). There are a variety of other possible filters to stop these people cold. Sure, they'd just use "n*ggers!" but I bet that would take the fun out of it for some of them.

Re:FTC (1)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980550)

I wish it were that easy... H0W manny wways kan u spel a worrd? I think the moderation system is designed to deal with this, and the offensive poster was modded down to -1 troll before I ever read it. Even with my settings set to see all the -1 troll posts, slashdot is not nearly as offensive as my spam-box.

Re:FTC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21979974)

It almost looks like GNAA (not to be confused with Greater Nashville Auburn Association) is making a comeback, doesn't it?

I'd like to elaborate on my previous post. (4, Funny)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980020)

Disclaimer: I'm about ass-deep in whiskey right now, and fairly sleep deprived. Mod me as you will.

Here's some "true talk" for anybody considering posting a racist troll, whether it's on Slashdot or any other forum on our glorious World Wide Web. While I, as a Constitution-upholding sort of guy, fully support your basic human right of free speech and free expression, I honestly wish all you racist pricks would die a slow and painful death at the hands of a seriously disturbed motherfucker. I'm generally against capital punishment, with you assholes as my sole exception. Sidenote: Yep, a conservative libertarian serving in the military (hard-liners, please don't bother posting your objections to military service, I have my reasons), I'm against a justice system which could kill one innocent person.

I'm a 26 year old white guy, born and raised in Stone Mountain, Georgia. I was a career software developer and network security specialist before joining the Navy about a year and a half ago. My whole life, I've had to deal with uneducated, fuckwitted racist pricks. They're not all from the South, by the way, not by a long shot... here's some stuff to consider before your punk ass little 15 year old hands click the "Submit Comment" button on your favorite forum.

Thousands of your fellow citizens, who happened to be black, fought and died in World Wars I and II. Thousands more fought and died in Korea and Vietnam. I serve our nation alongside thousands more, many of whom are Iraq and Afghanistan right now bleeding because they chose to enlist in the armed forces of our nation and "obey the orders of those appointed over them." Many of those I serve alongside in the submarine community happen to be black.

I'll make you an offer. Why don't you email me at philip.paradis@palegray.net [mailto] and give me some solid contact information I can work with? I'd love to have a friendly chat with you regarding your views on racial equality. If you're out of my liberty area, that's no problem... I'm sure I can get in touch with somebody in the service in your neighborhood who would be delighted to have a friendly wrestling match with your bitch ass. I'm sure you're a fucking pussy who won't actually own up to your childish behavior, but that's okay... I'm still out here defending your right to post asinine comments on public forums. So go fuck yourself.

Which word in "Anonymous Coward"... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980076)

...didn't you understand, you nigger-loving freak?

Wow (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980472)

I almost expected to hear the phrase "Come close to the coastline and I'll ram an Ohio class up your ass!"

Re:FTC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980124)

Oh, so you're allowed to bash someone's heredity based on observed bad behavior, but when others do it it's wrong.

You hypocritical race traitor!

Re:FTC (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21979556)

It must be fun being unable to find your ass with both hands.

Slick Politics (1)

egrass (687609) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979498)

Gee, what a shock. The FTC could go after any one of the millions of herbal remedy supplements and late night fat reducer pill infomercials and they choose to go after --- carbon offset providers. Think there is any political calculation going on to try to discredit the environmental movement and anti-global warming science directly or by association?

Re:Not to mention... (1)

secretwhistle (1116881) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980250)

Whenever a government agency second-guesses spending other people's money (itself a rare occurrence), the word "refund" is never used.

Re:Not to mention... (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980708)

That's funny, I just got my kicker check from the State of Oregon. They do in fact refund tax surpluses to the citizenry.

I wish it were more common.

Re:Kicker check from Oregon... (1)

secretwhistle (1116881) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980794)

That is amazing. I thought Oregon normally just melted down surplus tax funds to create light rail tracks.

Your Government At Work (3, Insightful)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Your Government At Work (4, Insightful)

bperkins (12056) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979938)

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.

I think paper consumption is green (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980316)

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:Your Government At Work (2, Funny)

jelizondo (183861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980152)

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! (2, Interesting)

no-body (127863) | more than 6 years ago | (#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! (3, Insightful)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979838)

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:All Hogwash! (2, Informative)

Mesa MIke (1193721) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979954)

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:All Hogwash! (2, Interesting)

no-body (127863) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979980)

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 way below any limits. That was fairly recent - 1-2 months ago and they are still chewing on that.

as for your: ... is a scam to separate over-indulged yuppies

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.

Re:All Hogwash! (1)

smaddox (928261) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980038)

Link?

Re:All Hogwash! (2, Interesting)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980654)

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 hunting/fishing state guide and read that it's not safe to eat as much fish as I want from most of our rivers. Even though my electrical power nuclear, the air here is nearly toxic from up-wind coal plants. The funny thing is I'm pretty sure most of us are willing to pay to clean up the place, but it's just not anyone's job to do it.

Re:All Hogwash! (2, Interesting)

inflamed (1156277) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980142)

How about this for a rationalization?

  Poorer people get leukemia more often due to unhealthier lifestyles. Poorer people are more likely to live near a nuclear power plant because richer people are less likely to live near one. The hatred of nuclear power is almost a universal characteristic these days.

That said, I wouldn't mind having a home near a nuclear plant where the property values (and taxes) are low. If there is going to be an "incident," I really don't think a difference of a few dozen kilometers will really make a huge difference in my likelihood of surviving unharmed.

Re:All Hogwash! (3, Interesting)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980280)

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.

Thank you, thank you, thank you (2, Insightful)

Quila (201335) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980290)

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.

Re:All Hogwash! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980626)

Atomic power is not considered as "green" and people promoting the environment mostly oppose it and for good reasons



There is no legitimate reason to oppose nuclear power. If you think you have a "good reason", then it just means you are an idiot.

Bullshit (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980722)

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).

The whole point of cap-and-trade (2, Insightful)

bakuun (976228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980920)

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 chooses to sit, somebody will have to clean up for those emissions.

By having such a system, the efforts for cleaning up would automatically be done in the areas where it is most cost-effective. Let's say that company A can reduce their carbon emissions at a cost of 10 $ / ton (I'm just making up the figures, have no idea how realistic they are). Company B can reduce their carbon emissions at a cost of $5 / ton. Now, either company A could choose to clean up their act, or they could buy carbon credits for whatever amount of carbon emissions they have from company B (giving company A a profit of perhaps $1 / ton). It is clear enough that in the second case, total expenses would be lowered (and the "cleaning" company even gets a profit!), while the total reduction in carbon emissions stays the same.

It is very important to note that this part, the "trading" part, is only one half. The second part, just as important, is the "cap" part. It would be possible to just flood the market with these credits, thereby making the system useless. Instead, the idea is to initially give quite generous credit rations (but still low enough so that companies would have to lower their emissions) and then as time goes by, successively lower the number of available credits on the market. It is this process which will cause the emissions to go down. The market half is just designed to make sure that those emissions reductions occur in the areas where it is cheapest to do them.

Re:All Hogwash! (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980234)

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.

Re:All Hogwash! (4, Insightful)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980454)

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.

Building anything takes power and fuel. The only way to not use up fuel and energy is to sit on a rock someplace until you starve to death.

Sitting on a rock? That's irresponsible (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980732)

You'll have to seal yourself in a cave, so you don't release methane when you decompose.

Re:All Hogwash! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980092)

How you could possibly modded "interesting" is beyond me.
Perhaps the guy was as misinformed as you are.

Power companies don't sell " electricity generated by coal and atomic power stations as "green" " as you put it.
Yes, there was e.on and its "mix it"-ad with the governator Schwarzenegger in 2001 or 2002 if I remember correctly, where one could "mix the sources", however this was forbidden shortly after, since they can't guarantee nor prove that the energy your house gets is the one you paid for, meaning, they can't prove that you're getting wind energy or solar energy or atomic energy, since there is only "one" power supply line system and all energy sources feed into this system.

Also, the resources are there, but due to fluctuations in power consumption they don't produce enough,
since you can't store electricity, thus energy sources from, say, France for example, feed into this system as well.
Therefore you have another reason why you don't know where the energy is coming from.
There is a whole energy market. Every country and every power company buys and sells energy from and to each other.
These are the reasons why the "mix-it"-campaign was ruled illegal.

This doesn't mean you can't buy renewable or "green" energy and consequently support the movement for a better environment, but you just can't be guaranteed that you get green energy.

Your inane conspiracy theory and 1984 paranoia is pathetic.

Re:All Hogwash! (0, Flamebait)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980156)

Ding Ding Ding! This is exactly what pisses me off when "environmentalists" trash nuclear power. They act like the alternative is everybody using Windmills and solar panels. What is actually going to happen is this: Alaska will ransacked, stripped of oil and forests, and the entire Appalachian Mountain Range will be strip mined for coal. That is the real alternative to nuclear power in the USA.

The Environmentalist-flag waving NIMBY crowd have doomed us to an ecological catastrophe far greater than any Nuclear Disaster in history.

Karma-offset programme (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Mod parent up!!! (1)

edunbar93 (141167) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981026)

This is indeed the truth, laid out in ways the ./ public can understand.

A fool and his money are soon parted. (2, Insightful)

Mesa MIke (1193721) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979832)

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....

Re:A fool and his money are soon parted. (1)

general_re (8883) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980126)

This is why all my offsets are free:

http://www.freecarbonoffsets.com/ [freecarbonoffsets.com]

All the sin, none of the guilt :)

Al Gore... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980972)

...is that you?

Marketing expense, and yet... (0, Troll)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979856)

the feds are trying to stop it. I am guessing that they do not like the heightening of global warming info.

Why doesn't the headline say "Carbon Offsets"? (1)

assassinator42 (844848) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979868)

I was confused and curious at the thought of the FTC being offput (which Firefox tells me is not a real word, confirmed by Google as this article is the third result) by memory offsets.

Self Off-Setting (2, Interesting)

oznog (837101) | more than 6 years ago | (#21979924)

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.

BITCH (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980214)

Sunday Creek Coal Mine - Ohio (4, Interesting)

Sanat (702) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Sequestration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980430)

The environmentalist and green-business crowds go on about carbon offsets, but so far they haven't addressed the last link in turning "planting a tree" into truly offsetting carbon emissions: sequestration. Sure, you plant a tree, and it grows big and strong over the next few decades, but eventually it slows down, and the amount of carbon it removes from the atmosphere every year is substantially reduced.

Unfortunately, you've taken a piece of land and reserved it for that tree, when you could chop down the tree and plant a new one there that would be more efficient at removing carbon. That tree could be used for all sorts of things that don't involve turning that tree into emitted carbon (build houses, furniture, etc. out of it), or you could even shove it into an abandoned coal mine, but the environmentalists' story stops before you get to that point.

Better yet, once we've settled on cleaner non-petro-based energy sources, what do we do with the remaining oil? One word: plastics. You hear all the time about how plastics fill up landfills and won't break down even after millions of years. Isn't that a good thing? Isn't that a whole lot of petroleum that could have ended up as carbon in the atmosphere, but that instead will now sit inert under the dirt? That's true sequestration right there, but the kneejerk environmentalists have all convinced us that throwing away plastic is a bad thing. Just think how much more expensive crude oil would have been years ago if we hadn't been recycling all that plastic - maybe that would have motivated us to switch to a cleaner-fuel society years ago.

all find and good (1)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980742)

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.

'There's a heightened potential for deception,' (2, Insightful)

bm_luethke (253362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980924)

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 fuel only small lightweight car? How many would talk about how great it is purchase a hummer if they included in the cost enough carbon offset to make the car a carbon sink (and given their cost it wouldn't be much a percentage increase)? My guess is VERY VERY few. However, that is *exactly* what is going on here - except that the rich are able to do so for their freaking entire lifestyle. The carbon offsets can't be attributed 100% to the hummer and are generally spun as going towards other things, however for those living so called "carbon neutral" lifestyles and still driving such things that is *exactly* what they are doing.

If one ever wants to know why the general public doesn't care much at all, all we have to do is look here. The vast majority of the highly public outspoken people are making *no* sacrifice while demanding it of us. They are simply trying to purchase their way by having us "less fortunate" people make up their slack. Especially true when certain Nobel Prize winners purchase them from their selves (not naming names here - after all that would be unfair). More often than not offsets are simply used for the True Believers to rationalize away their living gods.

No, no abuse of the system going on here. It is perfectly legitimate for those with more money to purchase a lower carbon impact of those without money so they can continue to do what they have always done. Nope, no problem there.
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