Clean Up After Your GlobalWarmingMobile


For those worried about the carbon dioxide emitted by their global warming machines (aka automobiles), Terrapass offers guilt free driving. Terrapass will sell you a nifty sticker for your windshield telling the world that you have paid to abate or absorb the amount of CO2 your car produces annually. To achieve this, Terrapass invests the fees in technologies that lower CO2 emissions.

Dreamed up by Wharton business school students and professors, the cost of salving your conscience is fairly reasonable. Terrapass lets you calculate just how much your car emits and then charges a commensurate fee for your sticker. For example, if you drive a 2005 Honda Insight 12,000 miles, Terrapass calculates that you would emit 4,148 pounds and pay just $29.95 for your sticker. However, driving a 2004 Hummer 12,000 miles would produce 18,058 pounds of CO2 and would cost you $79.95 for the sticker.

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  1. This sort of scam sort of reminds me of the Catholic Church selling indulgences back in the very old days.

  2. Actually, it is a interesting concept; in a narrow sense, if people were required by law to purchase these sort of stickers, it would address the external cost of the polition their cars produce; of course, the same thing could be done with a gas tax, since the polution is generally equivilent to gas consumption, and that would take care of the issue of self-reported milage, etc…

  3. David McElroy

    That’s exactly what I was thinking. At least the Church had more evidence supporting its faith, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. And profits from the sale of indulgences were used for something worthwhile (all that art in the Vatican).

  5. Representative: “Hello, Terrapass. How may we help you?”

    Me: “I’d like to get a sticker for my car, please.”

    Rep: “Of course. How much CO2 does your vehicle emit?”

    Me: “I don’t know. I’m calling about a sticker because I abused myself in the shower this morning.”

    Rep: “Uhhh…”

    Me: “Also I had impure thoughts about a woman I saw in the grocery store. And I goofed off a little at work today — is that worth a sticker? And, oh! I used the Lord’s name in vain three or four times yesterday during rush hour. How much for those stickers?”

    Rep: “Hold on. Let me get my manager.”

  6. This won’t work because hummer drivers do not have consciences to salve.

  7. I wonder how many Sins of Emissions will be forgiven if I make a pilgrimage to a sustainable agriculture – renewable energy collective?

  8. The weights given here are confusing to me.

    Even if the gasoline you put in your car combusted to CO2 at a rate of 100%, they’re claiming I use 2 tons of gasoline to go 12000 miles in a Honda Insight.

    That doesn’t sound right to me.

    But maybe someone with more chemistry knowledge could educate me on this.

  9. This is an excellent way for people to put their money where there mouths are. Who keeps an eye on Terrapass to make sure the proceeds are effectively invested in something other than administrative costs?

  10. Indulgences
    Saints’ relics
    Holy water
    Bottled water
    Organic food
    Live Aid

    and now this

    P.T. Barnum was possibly the greatest prophet the world has ever known.

  11. Why don’t I just invest the fees myself? Worst that could happen is I throw my money into stocks that lose all their value, much like buying a sticker with no return on investment. Of course, without a nice sticker I can’t let the people I pass on the street know of my self-righteousness.

  12. There’s the point, jc. It’s no good if you can’t be conspicuous about it.

    Just finished reading “The Fountainhead,” and this whole thing makes me shudder.

  13. jc,

    You hit the nail o the head, brother- “self-righteouness.” Isn’t actually buying the Prius instead of the Hummer sign enough that you care about the enviroment and gas consumption? As if buying a sticker for your Hummer really makes up for the fact that you are supporting, through your purchasing power, the people who sell and manufacture Hummers. Also, mk2009, making people buy a sticker by law would kind of go against the whole Libertarian/anti-statist theme that is dominate here.

  14. The sticker for my bicycle should be really damn cheap, I hope.

  15. JC: hey man, get a label maker and DIY a sticker.

  16. great idea, i’m getting one. as a free-market environmentalist, this makes good sense to me.

  17. The sticker for my bicycle should be really damn cheap, I hope.
    The answer to that should be between you and your doctor.

  18. Grant:

    Don’t you realize that you’re emitting CO2 every time you exhale? And just think how much more you emit when you exert yourself by riding a bike! You sinner, you!

    That will be 30 “Hail Greenpeaces” and a $19.95 sticker.

  19. We all support “free market” solutions to global warming.

    Now that we’ve seen one, let’s laugh at it.

  20. I’m all for free market solutions to pollution, and I hope this system does so good. But…..
    I suppose it’s my own biases talking here; it just seems like this is a superficial way to let people run their mouths of about something, but then continue to live their lives exactly the same while pretending to be superior to everyone around them. Now you can rant about “CORPORATIONS!” while continuing to drive your stupid H2! “Yes, I am better than you, I paid my $80”

  21. I eat a lot of baked beans do I need a sticker for this?

  22. Don’t you love when you find multiple typos in something 5 seconds after you post it?

  23. I wonder if the price people pay for them will become a pissing contest, with those who paid the least being the winners, you know, because they emit less gas and all.

  24. I think if someone put one of these on their hybrid, it would create an singularity of sanctimoniousness that would swallow up everything around them, extending at least as far as the nearest “fair trade” shop.

  25. My pickup, according to these folks, is emitting CO2 at a “rate” of $29.95 whether i drive 2000 miles or 4000 miles.

    Apparently my guilt should not be directly correlated to the miles driven.

    Wharton? The school that produced Mike Milken….

  26. What if you buy the sticker, but not display it on your vehicle? That way you’re supporting a free market approach to the environment without coming off like a smug, sanctimonious do-gooder.

  27. joe

    I had a feeling you would point out something like that, and your implied criticism is fair enough.

    I support the free market completely. I applaud people like these who can make money off of other people’s guilt and/or gullibility. I admire the Church and PT Barnum for doing the same. (full disclosure: I am a Catholic)

    What disturbs me is the gullibility itself.

  28. Joe,

    Free Market??? Governments create the allowances and grant them, just like taxes; they control the supply and the demand. All this market does is find some legally binding way for someone else to pay your taxes.

    You’re already paying environmental taxes on the gasoline you purchase, only an idiot would voluntarily pay double.

  29. joe, seriously, this is the best free market solution to gas consumption? The best free market solution to enviromental problems such as this is to buy, on the free market, cars that don’t pollute very much and/or have good gas mileage (i.e. hybrids, newer cars, etc.) Other great free market solutions exist (taking public transportation, carpooling, makingthe kids wsalk to school like we all did when we were kids, etc.) The fact that you don’t recognize all of these as free market solutions, but buying some sticker so that one can posture as an evironmentalist is a free market soltuion in your view, is concerning to say the least.

  30. jc

    …and if the idiot wants to pay double, let them! The quicker they spend all their money on foolishness, the sooner they’ll go bankrupt and starve, thus improving the gene pool.

  31. Just think of the whole thing as another “faith-based initiative”.

  32. erm…before anyone calls me an evil bastard based on my last post, I meant that only semi-seriously. Sort of self-mocking.

    Not that I’m not a bastard, just not an evil one.

  33. Why don’t I just invest the fees myself?

    Because the Chicago Climate Exchange, where CO2 allowances are being traded, is very illiquid, and has only a few traders. This, and the fact that the minimum trade is, I believe, one ton of CO2, means that the transaction costs are extremely high for individuals.

    What Terrapass does is simply economy of scale, making more use of your money, providing that that’s the way you want to use your money. I see nothing wrong with their approach; after all, they don’t force anybody to purchase their stickers.

  34. I think it’s a decent idea, the caveats of other posters not withstanding.

    Me, I drive a Honda Accord…not the hybrid, cuz I can’t afford it (my credit sucks donkey balls), but it still gets pretty damn good gas mileage.

    Of course, if I really had a lot of money, I’d prolly be driving around in a Dodge Viper or something, cuz I don’t really care about the environment, not because it’s a bad-ass ride. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  35. Joe,

    I think that most people here do support the “free-market.” However, I don’t think people support “solutions” such as this one, because conceding that this is a good “solution” implies there is a “problem” that needs solving. While most people agree there is measurable global warming, I am not sure that most people here see this as a “problem”.

  36. Jozef,

    Re-read the post. I wasn’t talking about investing in the allowances, I was talking about investing in energy companies and associated technology companies that sell products and services which actually reduce GHG’s rather than just spread the problem around.

    When companies that need to buy the allowances get around to reducing their emissions, they won’t need to buy the allowances and then whoever own the allowances is left holding the bag. The next move of the allowance owners then is to petition the government to lower the allowances even more so that some companies that were below the old limit are suddenly above the new limit and have to purchase allowances again.

  37. I’m a little confused why everyone seems to find this upsetting. Why not let people pay for their own CO2 abatement? Cars have gone, over the last few decades, from very dirty to fairly clean machines, almost all by government fiat. Maybe if enough of these kind of options are avaialable, we won’t all be fined for having noncompliant cars if we think the concept is stupid.

    All those people who bought indulgences are laughing at you from heaven, too.

    As for why the abatement charge is the same for 2000 mi and 4000, think “economy of scale”.

  38. jc: I was talking about people who’d like to invest into allowances, but cannot do so in an efficient manner. In a sense, it also serves to reduce allowances, as long as you don’t sell them again. What they are trying to do it to approach the problem from the other side; by market forces. And considering that the exchange is voluntary at this point, no government regulation would help.

    Speaking of such a market, the NOx markets are regulated by governments of states that participate in the NOx reduction program, and this provides ample profit opportunity. I’m currently consulting with a company that has a technology to reduce NOx, and which has thus heavily invested into the NOx markets, selling NOx futures. As such, maybe the idea of a government-regulated CO2 exchange would make sense as well.

  39. jbk,

    That government fiat you talk about was to reduce nitrous oxide, catalytic converters met that fiat and added several hundred dollars to the price of a car. In effect, it was a tax.

    And catalytic converters increased CO2 emissions as a result.

  40. My local power monopoly has invited me to join their “alternative energy” program whereby I voluntarily pay higher electricity fees, the extra amount going to unnamed, out-of-state “alternative” energy schemes. They assure me I will be “helping the environment” by subsidizing these curious unnamed entities. I have passed on the offer. Am I a bad person?

  41. “this is the best free market solution to gas consumption?”

    No one said this is the best free market solution.

    It is A free market solution, and it really is not a bad idea–the part about voluntarily paying into a fund based on your consumption, anyway.

    The thing that makes my cynical is the sticker. The “singularity of sanctimoniousness.” (I love that–that’s good language!)

    I guess the sticker could serve the purpose of advertisement, though. Hmmmm…

  42. …makes “me” cynical…not “my”…

  43. Jozef,

    The only reason anyone would invest in an allowance is to sell it at a profit later; it has no other use unless you redeem it for lower taxes.

    Obviously your company has an interest in reducing the amounts of allowances available, it would drive up the demand for the remaining allowances and for your technology. But all of that is based on punitive taxation.

  44. Other great free market solutions exist (taking public transportation, carpooling, makingthe kids wsalk to school like we all did when we were kids, etc.)

    I suppose it isn’t ironic for a “Swede” to mention public transportation as a free market solution. At least around the United States, the term usually means government-funded, -studied, -regulated, -corrupted, and -run transportation.

    I think the Terrapass is an interesting step for those individuals who want to do something with extra money they have. This assumes, as April mentioned earlier, that the company legitimately invests the money in effective tech and gets it implemented. I wonder if they’ll have a calculation for my ’02 VW Gold TDI running biodiesel…

  45. April,

    “The thing that makes my cynical is the sticker. The “singularity of sanctimoniousness.” (I love that–that’s good language!)

    I guess the sticker could serve the purpose of advertisement, though. Hmmmm…”

    Exactly. All the crunchy-granola-hippie types I personally have known are more interested in spreading “awareness”, rather than showing off how politically correct they are.

    On the other hand, I can’t really look inside the minds of such people and say exactly what motivates them. Yet on the other hand, neither can the people who accuse them of “sanctimoniousness”.

    I can only speak for myself, and thus I am being completely sanctimonious when I say that I don’t drive a car at all.

  46. What’s wrong with sanctimony?

    I think sanctimony gets a bad name.

    I still can’t understand how driving 12000 miles in an Insight [which I think would be less than 200 gallons of gasoline] can generate 2 tons of carbon dioxide.

  47. jc,
    If you go to the terrapass website they detail just what they spend the money on. It isn’t all carbon credits they do spend a chunk on other projects.

  48. Fluffy, that’s about right. Gasoline weighs about 6 lbs/gal and we can approximate the entire weight as carbon. 200 gal = 1200 lbs carbon.

    CO2 is 12/44 carbon by weight. 1200 lbs * 44/12 = 4400 lbs CO2 = 2 tons CO2.

  49. fluffy,

    I did the math. 200 gallons of gasoline (assuming the following: 100% octane with a density of 0.7 g/mL, and complete combustion) combusts to form ~3,600 lb of CO2, or about 1.8 tons.

  50. Oh, OK.


    I forgot that the combustion process would add oxygen from the air to the carbon from the gasoline.

    That’s where the extra weight is coming from. You’re driving through it.

  51. $79.95 for a hummer? Dood, you ain’t goin’ to the rite places I’m tawkin’ 20 smacks, tops.

  52. Actually, I’ve heard that most of the people who buy these stickers already own fuel efficient vehicles and are not in face hummer owners etc.. So for most of the people who buy these stickers it is not an alternative to buying a fuel efficient vehicles but an addition. to it

    I found this amusing:
    “I suppose it isn’t ironic for a “Swede” to mention public transportation as a free market solution. At least around the United States, the term usually means government-funded, -studied, -regulated, -corrupted, and -run transportation”

    as opposed to the free market highway system! No government involvement there ….

  53. I am going to buy one for my truck as soon as I return to the states. Not only is this an economically efficient way to reduce pollution, but there are few things I enjoy more than proving liberals hypocrites. Anyone who whines about global warming and does NOT take such a simple measure to reduce their own pollution has some serious ethical quandries. So does anyone who does not take advantage of the “green” electricity programs that many electric companies now provide. If you are not willing to reduce your own pollution, how dare you demand the government force everyone else to?

    As for the government, the solution is simple. Make the polluters pay. We can argue about whether current gasoline taxes are economically appropriate, but that is a technical economic debate, not so much a philosophical one.

  54. as opposed to the free market highway system! No government involvement there ….

    Of course. I never made any suggestion as to what I though of the current transportation network. But I will now: I’m all for ideas like Walter Block’s “Denationalizing the Roads”.

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