Monthly Archives: August, 2010

Offsetting your carbon footprint? RECs? Huh?

How effective and/or practical are U.S. “voluntary markets” to curb carbon emissions?

by Eleanor Burke,  August 2010

Carbon Markets: Venturing into the Labyrinth

Carbon offset economic theory is a labyrinth that would confound even the Minotaur who lives within it. Theseus, a mythological Athenian hero, managed to slay the Minotaur while it slept, and found his way back out of the maze by following a golden thread. We will follow Theseus’ golden thread into the labyrinth to attempt to conquer—by understanding—the beastly notion of what it means to “offset” one’s carbon footprint.

First we will distinguish between the mandatory carbon markets and the voluntary markets. This will allow us to narrow our focus to the voluntary market, which can be a leaping off place to understand the bigger global one. We will consider its tools, how—or if—they work, and whether this economic instrument is an effective way to promote clean energy production and diminish dirty[i] energy production, that is, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and begin setting the ship of climate changing on a less disastrous course. Continue reading →