Party Like It’s 1999

Some of you participated in the “Ecodriving” contest that was featured in our cube ad for a week or two. I did, despite scoring zero on my first attempt. In the end, Power Line readers scored several million points, finishing second only to Wonkette readers–sure, but we have jobs–among the sites where the Ecodriving ad was placed.

I was never clear on what the Ecodriving ad was advertising until the campaign was over, and we got a packet from a company called TerraPass that sells carbon offsets. Yes, that’s right–by virtue of our participation in the Ecodriving game, we and our readers received a hefty 13,000 pounds of carbon offsets, courtesy of TerraPass!

That’s exciting news, clearly, but I haven’t quite figured out what it means. Here is TerraPass’s explanation; click to enlarge:

TerraPass48.jpg

Honestly, I’m not quite sure what that means. A colleague who will remain nameless says:

So, what does one get when one purchases “carbon offsets”? Evidently, a package of promotional material that allow one to advertise to the less generous that one has purchased carbon offsets.

What do the offsets mean? “[A] sponsorship of clean energy production and projects that result in direct, measurable [but don’t ask for the measure itself!] reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

“By sponsoring these projects, you’ve balanced your own carbon footprint from activities such as driving, flying, or home energy use.”

In other words:

1. You give Terrapass a bunch of cash.
2. Terrapass invests in technology companies.
3. Terrapass sends you bumper sticker.
4. Terrapass enjoys dividends and capital gains on your investment.
5. Terrapass uses these to fund the printing of more bumper stickers.
6. Which are purchased by even greater saps that yourself.

Not a terribly good deal structure, right? But the carbon offsetters know their customer base: Al Gore’s warmingists. And, baby, you can sell them anything.

Well, we didn’t give them any money, but you get the point. Still, I would never accuse one of our advertisers of running such a scam. I’m sure it makes sense in a way I haven’t quite figured out yet. It is true, though, that part of what you get is the ability to advertise your eco-consciousness, as through this bumper sticker, which was part of the package:

TerraPassBumper71.jpg

Put that on the back of your Hummer, and your neighbors will be silenced.

A year or so ago, when Al Gore was publicly claiming that his extravagant lifestyle, complete with 100-foot long houseboat…

GoreHouseBoat53.jpg

…was environmentally OK because he “offset” his carbon emissions, somehow, I tried to investigate some of the prominent “carbon offset” companies. Most did not respond to my inquiries; some of the web sites I found incomprehensible. Other business models were all too clear. One company pays people in poor countries to stay “poor,” using, e.g., human treadmills for energy, to balance out a wealthy Westerner’s Escalade. Another, the most ludicrous in my opinion, takes your money and in exchange “designates” in your honor part of a forest. It doesn’t plant trees or anything of the sort, it merely “designates,” or names after you, a few acres of a forest. It’s almost exactly the same as the companies that, for a fee, purport to name a star after your girlfriend.

No doubt the TerraPass system would make sense if I understood it, but for now I think the import is clear: if you are a Power Line reader, you have received absolution! Turn up your thermostat. Take your snowmobile for a spin. Trade in your Prius for a Navigator. Rent a private plane to go skydiving. And, in general, party like it’s 1999. You’re entitled!

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