The Washington Post is cocking a skeptical eye at companies that offer cheap absolution for climate sin in the form of carbon offsets. To wit:
The market for "voluntary carbon offsets" now encompasses dozens of sellers and thousands of buyers, including individuals and corporations.
But in some cases, these customers may be buying good feelings and little else.
A closer look reveals an unregulated market in which some improvements bought by customers are only estimated, extrapolated, hoped-for or nil. Some offsets support projects that would have gone forward anyway. Others deliver results difficult to measure.
"Unregulated" generally implies a need for government regulation. However, a better and quicker way to ensure that carbon offsets are actually legit would be for environmentalist lobby groups to develop their own "green" standards for such markets. Greenpeace or the Friends of the Earth could offer their carbon seals of approval for companies that are actually offsetting emissions of carbon. A good example of how such green standards already work is the Marine Stewardship Council, a private environmentalist organization that certifies the sustainability of fisheries.
At the end of the article I actually think that the Sierra Club offers the best advice:
"We would recommend that, instead of taking that $100 and buying a carbon offset, that you take that $100 and invest in something" such as energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs or an insulating blanket for a home water heater, [Sierra Club] spokesman Joshua Dorner said.
Whole Post article here.