The fleecing of the greenies begins!

A short while ago I wrote a post about carbon balanced printing presses, and how carbon as a new currency was totally lacking in any standardized value. Of course, that won’t keep the folks with agendas furthered by promoting carbon emission hysteria from hyping it. So it progresses.

You can now put a widget on your site courtesy of the COSStats Project, which “calculates” how much electricity your readers are using when they look at your site. I put the word calculates in quotes, because there is no way to accurately calculate how much electricity is being used by a computer based on the info provided in web stats. There’s not even a way to reliably calculate how long a reader spent looking at the site, let alone where their electricity came from. But that doesn’t keep CO2Stats from giving you a number anyway. Should I be surprised that there isn’t a scrap of information anywhere on the site that explains how the number is calculated? Or that the number pops up on the page upon arrival? How can they know how much my visit really emitted if they don’t know how long I will stay? It actually updates with each additional page load. Don’t hit the refresh button – it causes emissions.

But even better is that along with this little widget with the random calculated number comes the chance to buy carbon offset credits via Sustainable Travel International. They have a handy site to calculate how much carbon emissions you’re producing by your traveling, along with a link to buy credits to offset them. Out of curiosity I put in that I drove 500 miles per week at 20mpg, which yields 1300 gallons per year of gasoline. They say that causes emissions of 11.5084 tons of Co2.

Gas is 6.03 lbs per gallon, so 1300 gallons is 7,839 lbs, or 3 tons and some change. Maybe their talking about metric tons, but they don’t say. 6.03 lbs is 2.741 kg, which works out to 3,563 kg total, or 3.563 metric tons. So, how did I get from 3+ tons to over 11 tons? When gasoline burns, the result is mainly water and Co2. Combustion isn’t perfect, so there’s other stuff, and gas has impurities and the world isn’t perfect but still, 100% of the gasoline isn’t going to convert to Co2 anyway. Is conservation of mass an inconvenient truth conveniently forgotten?

Sure, there are distribution emissions, emissions for pumping the oil out of the ground, and so forth. But are those going to go away because I stop buying gasoline? Anyone heard of fixed costs? How about overhead?

Just as with CO2Stats there’s not a link on the site explaining how the 11+ tons was arrived at. Just the expectation that it must be correct, and to feel like a true citizen of the earth I should cough up $175.50 to offset the emissions they are telling me I’m creating.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an enemy of the earth. I use fluorescent bulbs, I recycle, and I try to save energy. I don’t even begrudge those who want to spend the money on the offsets for the same reasons we donate to anything else. Just call it what it is: A very loose estimate. Tell us how it was calculated. I don’t want to be extorted by folks who refuse to explain the rules to the game they’re playing.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Is Black the new Gold?

There was a recent announcement that a UK printer is taking delivery of the first “Carbon Balanced” printing press, manfucatured by KBA. This isn’t very surprising because there is a lot of talk about carbon footprint, carbon offsets, and carbon everything else as people become more concerned with climate change and the socio-economic force it has as a political item.

It’s very surprising because printers are pretty pragmatic people, who aren’t usually given to spending money without a pretty darned clear understanding of the return on their invesment. While it’s easy to sell the idea of carbon balancing on the basis of principle, I expected the actual pricing to be a lot harder. I’m not surprised that a UK printer cares about climate change, I’m surprised he was willing to pay for the carbon balancing. Although the article doesn’t say what amount was paid for the carbon balancing, or even what it consists of.

As the political forces generated by threatening climate change drive people to value carbon footprints we will see a new currency emerge – carbon. the problem I see with this is that we’re not actually measuring the amount of carbon involved, instead the whole thing is based on calculations of how much carbon is believed to be emitted. These calculations are not always very simple. In calculating the carbon footprint of the beer I just drank, do I include the can? It’s recyclable, but what if I don’t recycle it? How about the salty popcorn that drove me to want the beer in the first place? Should its carbon footprint include the carbon from the beer that was clearly an inevitable result? Will the International Association of Carbon-Emiting Corporations come to the same quantity of carbon emitted for a given product as Americans Scared Shitless Of Climate Change, or the International Coalition of Carbon Trading Companies? Who decides what the right amount is?

An ounce of gold is an ounce of gold, and an ounce is clearly understood. That’s what enables the gold market to function.

Is a ton of emitted carbon as clearly understood? I don’t think so. So how is this market going to function?

I think initially the politcal value of balancing carbon footprints will be high enough, and the pricing of the balancing low enough, that it won’t be enough money to cause serious problems. The question is if carbon footprints will stay hot enough (pun intended) long enough for their value to get high enough to fight over. Eventually you and I are likely to pay extra for every product purely for carbon offsets. Before we get to that point, I think we’d better understand how this new currency will be established.