PG&E Global Warming Cure Just Hot Air

"Carbon credit" program costs too much, doesn't do enough

By Jackson West
|  Monday, Jul 27, 2009  |  Updated 12:15 PM PDT
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PG&E Global Warming Cure Just Hot Air

Orin Zebest

Turns out PG&E's carbon offset scheme is about as popular as its gas-fired power plants.

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The ClimateSmart program intended to offset carbon emissions through environmental projects is set to end, but Pacific Gas & Electric wants to keep it going -- regardless of its expense and apparent failure.

Customers were asked to voluntarily pay extra in order to fund projects, such as powering dairy farms with manure, in order to mitigate the effects of natural gas-powered plants operated by PG&E.

But only 31,000 signed up, less than one-sixth the number predicted by the California Public Utilities Commission, and the program has spent $7.1 million more than it has taken in over the last two years.

In addition, the project is half a million tons, or 33 percent, short of its carbon-emission reduction goals.

The idea was that customers could pay to claim credit for being "carbon neutral."

Of course, consumers could also conserve energy, which would mean paying PG&E less instead of more -- or produce their own energy with solar panels, and actually have PG&E pay them.

Wonder why the program never caught on?

Photo by Orin Zebest.

Jackson West loves how logging projects are considered carbon offset projects in PG&E's logic.

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