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E-M:/ If you must drive

Enviro-Mich message from jmgear <jmgear@acd.net>

I really appreciate having the TerraPass on my car --- it helps me deal with the fact that I still have to drive to get groceries . . .


April 22, 2006

Gas Guzzlers Find Price of Forgiveness


To people who take the threat of global warming <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/globalwarming/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier> personally, driving a car that spews heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere can be a guilt trip.

But to help atone for that environmental sin, some drivers are turning to groups on the Internet that offer pain-free ways to assuage their guilt while promoting clean energy.

It involves buying something known as a carbon offset: a relatively inexpensive way to stimulate the production of clean electricity. Just go to one of several carbon-offset Web sites, calculate the amount of carbon dioxide produced when you drive, fly or otherwise burn fossil fuels, and then buy an offset that pays for an equivalent amount of clean energy.

Of course, emissions could be reduced the old-fashioned way — by flying less, turning off the air-conditioning or buying a more fuel-efficient car. But that would probably require some sacrifice and perhaps even a change in lifestyle. Instead, carbon-offset programs allow individuals to skip the sacrifice and simply pay for the right to pollute.

"To some extent, it's a way for people to buy their way into heaven," said Chip Giller, who is president of Grist.org <http://Grist.org>, an online environmental magazine. "On the other hand, this is such a big macro problem that this is one of the few things people can do to really make a difference."

While offsets do not actually eliminate pollution, they do enable groups like Carbonfund.org <http://Carbonfund.org> to use the money to stimulate the production of clean electricity, which is more costly than burning coal or oil. An independent organization ensures that the money supports real projects. Some groups subsidize existing power production; others finance the building of new wind turbines or solar collectors.

(more . . .)

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