‘Another Inconvenient Truth’: BusinessWeek Busts Al Gore and Carbon Offsets

As reported by NewsBusters here, here, here, and here, this has been an awful week for global warming alarmists and their hero, soon-to-be-Dr. Al Gore. From an unfavorable article about him in the New York Times, to a Gallup poll showing that Americans aren't buying into his junk science, Gore must feel a long way from Hollywood and Oscar night.

Marvelously adding to the torture was BusinessWeek magazine which published an article stating that carbon offsets “amount to little more than feel-good hype” (h/t American Thinker).

As previously addressed here, carbon credits or offsets are a theoretical way for one to assuage one’s guilt for all those awful greenhouse gases you’re releasing into the air whenever you heat your home, drive your car, or eat too many beans.

Unfortunately, these offsets aren’t what they seem (emphasis added throughout):

Done carefully, offsets can have a positive effect and raise ecological awareness. But a close look at several transactions—including those involving the Oscar presenters, Vail Resorts, and the Seattle power company—reveals that some deals amount to little more than feel-good hype. When traced to their source, these dubious offsets often encourage climate protection that would have happened regardless of the buying and selling of paper certificates. One danger of largely symbolic deals is that they may divert attention and resources from more expensive and effective measures.

Hmmm. So, someone purchasing an offset from such a company really isn’t offsetting anything, for no additional greenhouse gas is being removed as a result of the transaction? Please tell us more:

Hollywood celebrated environmental activism at this year's Academy Awards, and not just by giving an Oscar to the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences promoted the show itself having "gone green," by means of a variety of initiatives. One element: Each performer and presenter received a glass statue representing the elimination of the amount of greenhouse gas associated with a celebrity lifestyle over the course of a year. The offsets were issued by TerraPass Inc., a two-year-old for-profit company in San Francisco that identifies climate-protection efforts and, for a fee, gives its customers the opportunity to buy a piece of the environmental action. Each Oscar favor represented 100,000 pounds of emission reductions drawn from TerraPass' portfolio of offset projects.

One of the largest in its portfolio is a sprawling garbage dump outside of
Springdale, Ark., from which TerraPass has purchased thousands of tons of gas reductions. The vast sloping mound of the Tontitown landfill rises near stands of bare-limbed hickory and oak trees, with the blue Ozark foothills in the background. The decomposing trash generates methane, a gas 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the earth's atmosphere, melting glaciers and raising ocean levels. Waste Management Inc., (WMI ) the huge garbage processor that operates the facility, tends nearly 90 wells dotting the trash mountain, each giving off a barely audible hiss as it sucks methane from the depths of the landfill and delivers the gas to a single towering flare. Once torched, the gas is released into the atmosphere as less-damaging co2. But company officials and Arkansas environmental regulators say Waste Management began to burn methane, and continues to do so, for reasons having nothing to do with TerraPass' offsets.

Sorry for the complexities here, folks. However, here’s the marvelous punch line:

Concerned that methane might be contaminating groundwater beneath the landfill, Waste Management first floated the idea for a gas-collection system in early 1999. Arkansas regulators urged the company to pursue this remedy. In 2001 the state increased its pressure by imposing a requirement for "corrective action" at the Tontitown facility. Waste Management promised to make the methane flare operational by late 2001. After probes subsequently detected methane levels exceeding allowable levels, Dennis John Burks, then chief of the Solid Waste Management Div. of the Arkansas Environmental Quality Dept., wrote to Waste Management on June 27, 2001, saying that the state "strongly urges WM to bring the newly installed Tontitown Landfill gas extraction system online as soon as possible."

[…]

Regardless of who deserves credit for taking the initiative, one thing is clear: The methane system was launched long before any promise of carbon-offset sales. In other words, it appears that the main effects of the TerraPass offsets in this instance are to salve guilty celebrity consciences and provide Waste Management, a $13 billion company based in Houston, with some extra revenue.

Isn’t that spectacular? In the end, folks purchasing offsets from this entity were basically just giving money to one of America’s largest refuse disposal companies while not creating any positive environmental impact that wouldn’t have occurred anyway.

In plain English, such a concerned Greenie offset absolutely none of their own greenhouse gas emissions.

Certainly, it goes without saying that “60 Minutes” or any of the mainstream media outlets aren’t going to make this headline news any time soon.

And, this is anything but rare:

All six other project developers selling offsets to TerraPass that BusinessWeek was able to contact said they were pleased with the extra cash. But five of the six said the offsets hadn't played a significant role in their decision to cut emissions. "It's just icing on the cake," says Barry Edwards, director of utilities and engineering at Catawba County, N.C., which installed a system in 1998 to turn landfill gas into electricity to power 944 homes. "We would have done this project anyway."

As such, the next time you hear some liberal like Dr. Gore claim that he’s offsetting the tremendous greenhouse gas emissions from his lavish lifestyle by purchasing carbon offsets, consider the likelihood that nothing could be further from the truth.

Of course, as folks that are buying into this junk science clearly are lacking in cranial capacity, it shouldn’t be a surprise how easily they’re lured into such scams. After all, as Gordon Gecko accurately proclaimed in the movie “Wall Street,” a fool and his money are lucky to get together in the first place.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.