The first rule of Carbon Offsets is, you do not talk about Carbon Offsets.
Just kidding. This isn’t Fight Club, but I do aim to pick a fight with those overhyping offsets.
If a smart company like Google can seriously think it can go green by burning coal and then buying offsets – and if a smart company like PG&E is bragging about a new program that allows customers to offset their electricity emissions by planting trees (a dopey program I’ll blog about later) — then something is very wrong about the general understanding of offsets.
For those who want a basic introduction to offsets, Wikipedia has an excellent entry. I believe the more you know about and think about offsets, the less appealing they are, as these articles make clear.
No rules of the road exist for offsets. Until now. In subsequent posts, I will offer my own rules based on dozens of discussions over the past decade with environmentalists, energy experts, corporations, and would-be offsetters. I’ll post the first rule tomorrow, but it can be summed up in two words: No trees!