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November 15, 2007

The Forest Service and the Carbon Offsets Game

Writing in High Country News, Rick Craig suggests that the US Forest Service's entry into the carbon offsets game is ill-advised. Here's a snip:

Salvaging the Atmosphere: The Forest Service Joins the Carbon Offsets Game, Rick Craig, High Country News, Oct 15: … On July 25, Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell announced the launch of the Carbon Capital Fund, which will sell carbon offsets to fund tree planting on national forests. … The idea sounds logical enough. In fact, the theory that forests can suck up excess carbon and cool the planet helps drive a market that doubled its revenues last year to $110 million. But the Forest Service's entry into the carbon offsets game comes as doubts about tree planting mount. Scientists are skeptical about its benefits, and the honesty of the unregulated market has been questioned in congressional hearings. Worst of all, critics feel, is the tacit permission offsets give buyers to continue their carbon-emitting lifestyles.

Visit the Web site of the National Forest Foundation, the Forest Service's nonprofit arm, and its Carbon Footprint Calculator can tell you how many metric tons of CO2 emissions you are responsible for. If the result leaves you feeling guilty, don't worry. For just $6, the fund lets you offset 1 ton of carbon by supporting tree-planting projects on the national forests. The transaction is based on the theory that forests act as "carbon sinks," soaking up the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.

But in temperate forests, the concept has not held up well to scientific analysis. Forests do take carbon out of the atmosphere temporarily, but they don’t remove it from the active carbon pool, because their carbon is released when they rot or burn. Cambridge botanist Oliver Rackham, author of a history of Britain's forests, has said that telling people to plant trees to stop global warming is like telling them to drink more water to keep down rising sea levels. …

For an agency with increasingly stretched budgets, however, selling that commodity makes a difference. … And with the agency's million-acre reforestation backlog, there's no shortage of places for consumers to relieve their carbon guilt. [NFF hypertlink added]

See also:
Privatization by Many Means: Carbon Offsets Edition, Forest Policy …, Aug 27
Carbon Offsets: Modern Day 'Indulgences'?, Ecological Economics, Feb 20

Posted by Dave on November 15, 2007 at 01:33 PM Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 13, 2007

The Big Green Fire Machine is Hungry

If you've ever wondered why the Forest Service is so interested in Carbon Trading, and "Global Climate Change Initiative" — e.g. FS Strategic Plan or Chief Kimbell's Oct. speech on "Globalization" — simply follow the money trail. Last week Dan Berman noted that the Forest Service is in line to receive up to a Billion Dollars a year from sale of carbon credits:

Senate cap-and-trade bill could mean billions for firefighting, Dan Berman, E&E Daily, Nov 2: Federal fire suppression efforts stand to benefit greatly from a cap-and-trade auction for carbon credits, thanks to a provision added to a Senate bill late last week.

The bill could mean $1.1 billion per year for Forest Service and Interior Department firefighting costs between 2012 and 2050, relieving the annual strain on agency budgets. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) added the provision to a substitute amendment from Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.) before a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee approved the underlying legislation last week. …

Some argue that this will spell relief for budget taps the Big Green Fire Machine, or the Fire-Military-Industrial-Complex as Wildfire called it, has on agency budgets. But in another way "free money" will add more incentives for extant fire fighting procedures to become even more entrenched and resistant to change. This "dark side" suggests that we ought to be wary of this and any other pot of "free money".

Posted by Dave on November 13, 2007 at 09:52 AM Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack