Fix the Fence, Tackle the Core Problem

By Mike Bryan | February 09, 2010
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Working our way through the maze of carbon credits, cap-and-trade greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction requirements is complicated, to say the least. If the goals of the Obama administration are achieved, reaching 1990 emission levels by 2020 and an 80 percent reduction in GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2050, it will be a marvelous achievement indeed.

There will be significant ancillary economic benefits, such as emissions trading programs, emission monitoring systems, emission reduction strategies and studies, and emission reduction technology providers, to name just a few. In short, GHG reduction requirements will be big business. Many companies have already recognized the opportunities and are positioning themselves for profit. A simple scan of the Internet will demonstrate that point.

Buying carbon credits, while it may be in compliance with the developing regulations of many countries, has always seemed like avoidance of compliance rather than actually doing something positive to reduce emissions. If the U.S. actually achieves the kind of reductions targeted, we will have created a multi-billion dollar pollution to profit industry. While that may not be a bad thing for America, does it truly help the world's environment?

Multinational U.S. companies operate in some of the poorest countries in the world, buying/trading credits from themselves in the United States in order to achieve compliance in a particular country. Heavily polluting domestic companies in various countries will buy carbon credits from U.S. companies based in their country to avoid having to achieve physical compliance themselves. Sweet … except, perhaps, for the environment!

In large part, the carbon that we are trying to reduce is coming from petroleum. It seems as though there should be a much greater emphasis on replacing the pollution causing element along with other GHG reduction strategies. We didn't seem to hear a lot about alternative fuels at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December. Rather, the strategy focused on forcing industry, already burdened with high costs and shrinking profits, to make the changes to compensate for petroleum.

If the world is serious about GHG reductions then we should attack the problem—petroleum—at its core. Instead, we seem to be focused on the cows in the corn, rather than fixing the fence. Alternative fuels are not a panacea for global warming, but they should be an integral part of the strategy for every major country in the world that is serious about GHG reductions.

The world should be focused on the environment and reducing the base source of GHG emissions. If avoidance through credit trading is the strategy then we have truly missed a once-in-a lifetime opportunity.

That's the Way I See It!