Some greens and congressfolk are questioning the efficacy of the U.S. House of Representatives’ recent purchase of $89,000 in carbon offsets as part of their greening the Capitol initiative. “It didn’t change much behavior that wasn’t going to happen anyway,” said Joseph Romm of the Center for American Progress. “It just, I think, demonstrated why offsets are controversial and possibly pointless.” Some of the offset funds went to farmers in North Dakota who have been using no-till farming techniques, which retain more carbon in the soil. Critics argue that many of the farmers were already using no-till methods prior to getting the cash due to other benefits of no-till like cheaper fuel costs and potentially higher yields. Funds also went to a power plant in Iowa that switched from burning coal to switchgrass for 45 days in 2006, though it’s unclear if the project would have happened without the expectation of carbon-credit cash. Another project planted trees on tribal land in northern Idaho and also may have gone forward even without the offset funds. House administrator Daniel Beard, who brokered the deal with the Chicago Climate Exchange, said that the point wasn’t whether or not the offset projects would have happened without the House funds, but “the point is that they did do it.”

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