New company offers guilty motorists a way to offset emissions

In what is likely to be a growing trend, a private company is stepping in to make money by offering people a concrete way to take positive action against global warming. Benven LLC runs a program called TerraPass, which emerged from a classroom project at the Wharton School of Business. TerraPass sells carbon-dioxide remediation; consumers can purchase at varying levels, based on the estimated tonnage of CO2 their vehicle produces. The money will be used to purchase (and retire) credits at the Chicago Climate Exchange, a commodities market of sorts whose members include Ford Motor Co. and IBM. In the end, the money ends up supporting energy-efficiency or fuel-switching projects at these companies, and because such projects represent a more cost-effective reduction of CO2 than increases in automobile fuel efficiency, says Wharton professor Karl Ulrich, money spent on TerraPass does more overall good than money spent buying a more fuel-efficient car. Goes to show: Despite all the rhetoric about environmental responsibility slowing the economy, there’s gold in them thar hills.