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Offsets, concluded (for the time being)

After some thinking, I decided that the primary function of the different companies and pricing is to quantify (our misgivings about?) personal energy use/abuse.  Which is not unimportant.  Having a price to describe something is one of the few ways I can feel objective about something.  Price is something I think I understand: tons of carbon that are invisible and impact the earth in (vastly accelerated) geological time I understand in a much less tangible way.  Offets are a product like anything else, and are treated as such: click here for a website offering to get you the lowest price on your offsets!

Of course if there's one thing this project has taught me, it's that price doesn't really tell you that much: junky products can be expensive; the simplest solutions to things are often cheap or free; and, most things don't include the real costs required to make, produce, distribute, and dispose of them.  (See The Story of Stuff for a quick synopsis.)  So that's what the projects are about.  Here, we have the pastoral illusion that Whole Foods provides us: happy cows and chickens and Joe Farmer continuing the tiny family business for eleven generations.  Wind farms in depressed economies, leafy green trees and new habitats for exotic animals, the restoration of the Great Plains Main Streets!  These companies know that this is what we want to buy; this is what they sell us.

For now, I'll take the risk of being had, of playing the fool.  The oil trader at my finance firm told me with a twinkle in his eye that he'd like to go into the offsets business, the "best fraud [he's] ever heard of.  Paying a guy in India not to drive to work today!"

To recap: in 2007, I flew round trip from New York to Burbank; New York to Oakland; New York to Sao Paulo and then from Sao Paulo to Natal; New York to Denver and then from Denver to Kalispell; New York to Sacramento; New York to Mexico City; New York to Boston; and finally, New York to Santa Ana.  According to Native Energy, that's 41,666.49 miles, 16.6 tons of carbon.  $204 to Great Plains wind energy projects.

I'm not gonna lie: largely unsatisfying.  That's a full 7% of my monthly budget.  A 7% I'd much rather spend on a nice pair of new shoes. 

Posted on Monday, January 21, 2008 at 04:57PM by Registered CommenterMegan Metcalf in | CommentsPost a Comment

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