Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Carbon Offsets

With all of the crisis' going on in the world it is sometimes difficult to determine what an individual can do to make a difference. One approach to combat global warming is to purchase carbon offsets, sometimes referred to a green tags.

Carbon offsets refer to the process of investing money at a commercial level to offset your individual impact. For example, investing in clean energy production at a commercial level to offset your dirty energy consumption at a personal level. Most carbon offset mechanism allow you to calculate your dirty energy usage and provide you an option to purchase that much clean energy at a commercial level, thus resulting in a net neutral green house gas impact. Actually, you only pay the incremental expense of the clean energy over the dirty energy production. Some utilities, such as Idaho Power, will ensure that the clean energy is purchased and put into the grid, ensuring a direct local impact. Other approaches simply ensure that the new investment is made in the most effective generation areas - remember that global warming is a global issue.

Why commercial? Clean commercial energy is the most cost effective form of clean energy, thus the value of the offset approach. For example, to convert my house to clean energy using solar panels would cost me $22,000, with a 20 year break even period. To purchase commercial offsets for the same amount of electricity costs me $15 a month more than my traditional energy bill. Both approaches have an immediate impact, but one approach is much easier to get started.

Most utility companies are now offering green programs that can be added directly to your utility bill. My electrical offsets ($15 a month) are purchased from Idaho Power. For more information on the Idaho Power Green Power Program - http://www.idahopower.com/energycenter/greenpower/default.htm.

To offset your vehicle emmissions, you can purchase vehicle offsets at http://www.terrapass.com/. To offset a large SUV (like our camper van) at 12,000 miles a year costs me $79.95 per year. Terrapass has a carbon calculator for calculating the carbon your vehicle produces based on your vehicle type and annual miles driven.

Both sites listed above provide more information on the projects that their offsets have funded.

Remember, the most effective mechanism to combat global warming is to reduce consumption - saves money and the planet.

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