The headline is from a remarkable story in last week’s Energy Daily (subs. req’d):
In a preview of a likely GOP strategy in the coming congressional battle over global warming legislation, Republican members of the House subcommittee charged with crafting the legislation last week blasted the use of greenhouse gas emissions offsets–a controversial mechanism for reducing compliance costs that is strongly supported by utilities and other U.S. industry sectors.
Now you know something is fishy when House Republicans have the exact same position as Climate Progress (see “You can call a rip-offset a CDM project, but it’s still a rip-offset“).
So what is their gambit in opposing the cost containment measure that is most popular among their own big-polluting constituents? Energy Daily explains:
The strategy may be aimed at sowing doubt about offsets among Democrats to build support for trimming the role of such cost-saving mechanisms in a climate change bill; that, in turn, could reduce industry’s support for greenhouse cap-and-trade legislation.
At a March 5 hearing on offsets before the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee, key Republicans questioned the legitimacy of offsets, which represent emission reductions taken in sectors outside of a cap and can be significantly cheaper than reductions taken in sectors covered by a cap. The GOP members charged offsets are a boondoggle that could produce billions of dollars in revenues for China and other developing nations with little or no resulting global warming benefits.
That’s one reason I now think China should be largely excluded from the CDM market except under very carefully constrained and limited circumstances. I’ll do a separate blog post on this later.
Supporters of offsets argue that if they are carefully monitored and verified to ensure they represent “additional” emission-reduction actions beyond business as usual, offsets can help keep compliance costs low while working to slow the concentration of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.
In particular, supporters say, offsets earned by rewarding tropical forest countries for slowing or stopping deforestation can provide a substantial, cost-effective climate-change benefit. Deforestation currently accounts for as much as one-fifth of global emissions, according to government and independent estimates.
But Republicans pointed to well-regarded research that questions the value of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a program that allows developed countries that fund clean energy projects in developing countries to earn credits against their emission-reduction obligations under that treaty.
Credits earned by the CDM–by far the world’s largest offset program–are used in the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to help EU countries meet their emission reduction commitments under the protocol.
A November report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that “[w]hile the CDM has provided cost containment in a mandatory emissions reduction program, its effects on emissions are uncertain, largely because it is nearly impossible to determine the level of emissions that would have occurred in the absence of each project.”
Separate research led by Stanford University professor Michael Wara concluded that “any offset market of sufficient scale to provide substantial cost control for a cap-and- trade program will involve substantial issuance of credits that do not represent real emissions reductions….”
Can’t argue with that (see “Question from WSJ blog: Are Bogus Carbon Offsets Really That Bad?“)
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), a member of the subcommittee and the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that the EU’s use of CDM credits has cost jobs and damaged the credibility of the ETS.
Barton, who with Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) commissioned the GAO report, said it “raises serious doubts about the effectiveness of any carbon emissions reduction scheme. If nothing else, the failure of the ETS and CDM shows that the federal government shouldn’t spend taxpayer dollars on uncertain and unverified benefits.”
Ironically, the Republican arguments echo criticisms made by some grassroots environmental groups, who assert that including broad offset use in a U.S. cap-and-trade program would delay direct emissions reductions by utilities and manufacturers.
“The bottom line is that ensuring offsets deliver emissions reductions that are of the same quality as those achieved within the bounds of a cap-and-trade program is extremely difficult, if not impossible,” Emily Figdor, federal global warming program director for Environment America, told the subcommittee.
Other environmental groups, notably the Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council, support the use of offsets if they are subject to rigorous monitoring and verification protocols to ensure they reflect real emissions cuts.
It seems to me that more and more conservatives are trying to figure out how to kill a climate deal with whatever means they can — even if that requires advancing positions that are in fact counter to what they really believe (see Sen. Corker on CCS: “It seems like when donkeys fly they’ll do it on a commercial basis. Secondly, a lot of water is used in that process.” and Sen. Corker agrees with Climate Progress on rip-offsets).
- House abandons rip-offset purchase. Now can it abandon them in a climate bill?
- Q: What is the difference between carbon offsets and mortgage-backed securites?
- No-till farming does NOT save carbon and is NOT a carbon offset