What's the deal with offsets?
The Waxman-Markey climate bill proposes more than a pure cap-and-trade scheme. It’s actually cap and trade and offset. Offsets, put simply, would let polluters pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than they would be permitted under the “cap” part of the program. Companies would earn that right by investing in projects in the United States or in other countries that reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere.
Grist takes a closer look at carbon offsets: Who wants them? How would they work? Would they help the United States reduce CO2 emissions?
Part 1: Key to climate bill, offsets have plenty of critics (Erica Gies)
Part 2: Offsets and Big Ag: Does the climate bill give away too much to the farm sector? (Erica Gies)
Sidebar: Pacific NW landowners team up to market forest offsets (Jessica Knoblauch)
Part 3: Offsets remain off-putting to many experts intent on curbing CO2 emissions (Erica Gies)
Sidebar: Biochar as the new black gold (Bill Hewitt)
Stories in this series:
Key to climate bill, offsets have plenty of critics
America’s first major stab at tackling global climate change comes in the form of the American Clean Energy Security Act, a massive piece of legislation that would touch nearly every corner of the U.S. economy. The bill, often referred to as “Waxman-Markey” after its principal sponsors in the House of Representatives, contains provisions for clean energy technology, energy efficiency, green building codes, green jobs, and adaptation measures to help ease people into a new world order. But its most talked about feature is the regulation arm, “cap and trade”: limit pollution to a finite amount, lower the allowable amount each …
Pacific NW landowners team up to market forest offsets
Owners of forestland in the Pacific NW could benefit more under a national carbon offsets system, as trees common to the region store more carbon per acre than East Coast species. Pictured: Douglas firs in an Oregon forest.Courtesy Ecotrust’s sbeebe via FlickrThough most people probably think of national parks when they think of forests, more than half of the 750 million acres of forestland in the United States is actually privately owned, much of it by individuals and families, according to the American Forest Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy organization. Together, these trees suck up about 10 percent of U.S. carbon …
Offsets and Big Ag: Does the climate bill give away too much to the farm sector?
Special Series: What’s the deal with offsets?Photo illustration by Tom Twigg / GristThe compliance market for offsets proposed under the House’s American Clean Energy and Security Act would not just mean more opportunity for companies already in the business of selling carbon offsets. It would also result in a major realignment in the types of offsets offered, shifting away from renewable energy to offsets derived largely from land use, land use change, and forestry projects (otherwise referred to by the clunky acronym LULUCF). That’s because Waxman-Markey, as the House bill is known, excludes all forms of energy production, including renewable …
Biochar as the new black gold
Special Series: What’s the deal with offsets?Photo illustration by Tom Twigg / GristImagine a system that can: (potentially) store billions of tons of carbon in soil for centuries; dramatically reduce agricultural waste, forest debris and some municipal solid waste, thus eliminating the production of greenhouse gases that result from their decomposition; generate energy to both power itself and a surplus for use in surface transportation or electricity generation; and greatly increases the productivity of agricultural soil, thus reducing the need for expensive and polluting fertilizers. This is the promise of biochar — the carbon-rich remains of “burning” organic matter via …
Offsets remain off-putting to many experts intent on curbing CO2 emissions
The massive climate and energy bill now working its way through Congress would create a multi-billion-dollar market in carbon offsets, giving owners of agricultural and forest land the opportunity to profit as companies seek to offset their carbon emissions. Offset quality — ensuring that an offset represents a genuine reduction in greenhouse gases — has been a lightning rod issue in the voluntary market that emerged in the United States over the past decade. The eventual settling upon multiple standards — while somewhat reasonable — has not helped to ease concerns. Even though some of the standards for evaluating offset …