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Old 04-05-2013, 10:23 PM  
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Carbon offsets trade prone to shady scams

By Jim Farrell, Vancouver Sun April 4, 2013

Re: Auditor general slams B.C.'s carbon credit plan; System involves transferring public money to private sector to achieve carbon neutrality, March 28

I read with wry amusement the Sun story that called into question the good intentions of worthies who now market carbon offsets.

I was reminded of a day in 2007 when I was in New Delhi and spotted a front-page headline in The Times of India that proclaimed the predicted cold winter in Europe promised economic good fortune for India.

The story explained how increased consumption of natural gas to heat European homes would send European carbon credit traders scouring the world for offsets. Since India (like China) was a major source of carbon credits the people of India could rejoice in their coming good fortune.

"How can this be" I asked an Indian-based colleague? India and China weren't even signatories to the Kyoto accord. And the carbon emissions of those two nations were skyrocketing.

My colleague explained that not being a signatory to the accord excused those skyrocketing emissions but didn't mean that Indian companies couldn't market carbon credits for alleged reductions of carbon emissions. In fact, India and China were major suppliers of carbon credits to Europe.

But carbon credits being essentially only paper documents, scams were flourishing, my colleague went on to explain. A ruse might involve a steel company previously known to emit huge amounts of carbon from its blast furnaces and coking ovens. That company would set up a separate but associated company and "spin off" its carbon-emitting facilities to the new company while maintaining the company's original name for its non-emitting rolling mills. Voila! At one fell swoop, the company, with the connivance of local paid-off officials, had achieved a massive reduction in carbon emissions. It could then sell carbon offsets to the credit-hungry Europeans.

"But how can they get away with it?" I asked. Easy, my colleague explained. European companies wanted large amounts of cheap carbon credits, no questions asked.

Six years later, it seems the folks who gave us the great Wall Street meltdown that involved subprime mortgages, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps and derivatives have discovered a new brand of snake oil they can market to an idealistic but naive public.

Eric Hoffer eloquently described the game in 1967. He might have been talking then of religion, or patriotism, or whatever. Were Hoffer still alive, he might be talking about the "save the planet" movement. "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket."

Jim Farrell Victoria
Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/business...#ixzz2PebQ9oyb



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