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Find below part of a conversation with my first expert guest, my relative Rob Elam, a cofounder of Propel Biofuels.  I asked him for his opinion on offsets, something I have mixed feelings about. 

Hey, Rob -

I wanted to follow up on the conversation we started about offsets at the reunion last summer.  For some context, I am keeping a blog about not buying anything new in 2007, which you may already know about.  Of course I realize that the project has a lot of "green/zero is the new black" going on," and I hope I demonstrate some self-awareness of that in my writing. Some other enviro stuff has snuck into Fix, and I'd like to explore this issue of offsets if I can.

Ironically (?) I've used the money I've saved by not buying crap for travel, which is of course so terrible for the environment.  Energy generally isn't one of my main areas of focus, as I see my single, city-livin', bike-ridin' lifestyle as pretty low impact (relatively speaking).  But now I feel I need to repent a little, having jetted to CA four times, Brazil, Mexico City, Montana, and Boston in the space of 12 months.  The easiest thing to do is surf over to TerraPass and click and charge, but what with the bad press, my general ignorance, and its scary resemblance to buying indulgences, I am given pause.  After some research, I didn't find a better alternative, just more questions.

What do you think of my current dilemma?  Should I just forget the whole thing and concentrate on taking a train next time?



Good question. I know Tom Arnold, one of the TerraPass founders. They are a good company. It's all about the quality of the projects funded by the offsets. Do your research.

Offsets ain't perfect, but heck nothing is. We are dealing with a HUGE problem- Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Utility- energy, mobility, lifestyle, global economic and environmental impacts. China, India, Russia. Population growth. Dwindling supply of crude oil. Climate change. Poverty. War.

Offsets. Be aware and diligent. It's a start. And the emerging voluntary carbon markets, in which offsets play a big role, are important.

Don't even get me started on lifecycle CO2 emissions and energy balance. Electric cars? The energy doesn't come from the wall outlet- it comes from coal primarily, or hydro- both incredibly destructive to biodiversity and the environment. The batteries for energy storage? Mine tailings and toxins. Biofuels, nuclear, solar, wind. Trade offs to all the renewables. (Nukes are hardly renewable- the waste product is eternally toxic).

Tough choices. As educated consumers we can begin to make better choices, but be aware of corporate greenwashing and how our own lifestyles impact on our world.


Posted on Sunday, January 6, 2008 at 07:25PM by Registered CommenterMegan Metcalf in | CommentsPost a Comment

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