This Is Why I Don’t Understand Carbon Offsets
|By Steve Balogh in Business, Climate Change, Dumb Ideas, Green Politics, Pollution | September 13, 2007|
In the first deal of its kind involving a U.S. oil company, ConocoPhillips has agreed to pay $10 million to offset greenhouse gas emissions from a planned expansion of its refinery in Contra Costa County, California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced Tuesday.
Most of the oil company money would be spent on projects that include restoration of Bay Area wetlands and the planting of trees in California to help the state meet its goal of reducing emissions 25 percent by 2020.
Brown said Tuesday he is seeking similar measures from Chevron Corp., which wants to build new processing plants at its Richmond refinery, the largest in the region.
“ConocoPhillips is the first oil company in America to offset greenhouse gases from refinery expansion,” Brown said in an interview after his announcement.
The refiner agreed to pay $10 million for projects that would curb greenhouse gases in an attempt to compensate for releasing an additional 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year when the expansion at its Rodeo refinery is completed in 2009.
Under the agreement:
– $7 million would be used to start a fund for financing projects to cut carbon dioxide in the Bay Area. The fund would be operated under guidelines to be developed by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in consultation with the attorney general’s office.
– $2.8 million would be spent to grow trees in mature forests that absorb carbon dioxide.
– $200,000 would help restore wetlands on San Pablo Bay.
– 70,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions would be eliminated from a ConocoPhillips facility in Santa Maria (Santa Barbara County).
The emphasis is mine.
Let me get this straight… a refinery like ConocoPhillips is going to expand its pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. It then pays the state $10 million dollars to do so. The state takes that money and spends $2.8 million to grow trees in mature forests to “absorb” carbon dioxide. Then the bulk of the money – is used to start a fund to finance future projects.
Hold on just a minute. The $2.8 million dollars worth of trees that are planted should certainly be lauded for its reforestation value, but as “carbon absorbers“? That is a little questionable. Because trees in California seem to have a history of being “carbon producers“:
Number of Fires and Acres Burned in California in 2006:
1/1/2006 to 12/31/2006 – 7,454 fires = 221,639 acres [California Department of Forestry]
Seems to me that 221,639 acres of forest fire would release a heck of a lot of carbon into the air. $2.8 million would plant quite a few trees, but there is no guarantee that those trees would hold in the carbon over the existence of the refinery.
And I have to question the $7 million dollar fund. Why not just do $7 million dollars worth of projects now? How about retrofitting $7 million dollars worth of state owned buildings to reduce energy consumption, and therefore reduce the need to burn fossil fuels to heat and cool them. Or fund $7 million worth of those same retrofits for lower income households.
Lastly, I have to question the total dollar amount. Will $10 million dollars (a large amount to be sure) be enough to truly offset the increased emissions from the plant? It seems to me that it will take an extreme amount of carbon savings in other ventures to reduce the plants future emissions. Will $10 million really cut it? In the meantime, the total amount of carbon emissions for the state has had a net increase. Not to mention that the product that the company will be producing itself will be responsible for a huge amount of emissions when it is burned up in a car as gasoline, or used to heat a home.
I just don’t get it, I guess. I try to stay open minded. I try to read both sides of the debate. I read Dave Roberts at Gristmill and his commenters. I just look at that article and I see, more emissions -
The expansion would have the effect of adding more than 1 million tons a year of carbon dioxide to the plant’s emissions when it is fully operating. Now, the plant emits about 1.9 million tons a year. The construction would also add additional amounts of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, soot and other pollutants.
- an expansion of a fossil fuel refinery, and a “gift” to the state. Yes, I am glad that they care at all, but I just don’t see giving kudos to these types of schemes. I certainly don’t see how this expansion of pollution helps California achieve its goal of “reducing emissions 25% by 2020″.
Help me out here folks.