There’s been quite a bit of back and forth here recently about the merits of carbon offsets. Those interested in the subject should check out this new piece in the New York Times. It does an effective job of laying out the major criticisms, specifically around the lack of reliable monitoring and the dubious benefits of tree planting. This is amusing:

Climate Care … also undertook a project to finance the distribution of tens of thousands of low-energy fluorescent lights in South African townships.

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Shortly after the program got under way, however, a state energy utility distributed millions of similar bulbs free.

I expect these criticisms have merit. My question is: once the market becomes somewhat saturated, won’t offset providers start competing with each other based on, say, how well they monitor their results, or how they niche target their investments?

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For instance, if I had the choice, I’d buy all my offsets from a provider that used them exclusively to invest in renewable energy projects. Won’t market competition bring about these kinds of improvements and refinements?