Monday, January 28, 2008

Government & The Environment

by shamanic

There's a piece in the Post about carbon offsets that the House purchased this year for $89,000 and the projects that were funded with the money, and there's just something incongruous about the whole idea.

Here's how I see it: last year I purchased a small carbon offset through Georgia Power and I pay an extra $5 or $10 per month on my monthly bill to, in theory, fund greener energy sources in my state like methane reclamation, solar, wind, hydro, or geothermal. They've got a page on the web that discusses the various options in the region. I can't say whether Georgia Power uses the money for those things and I can't tell you if a single other Georgian household purchased these offsets through the program, but it seemed to me that I could, as a consumer, represent a market force that wants cleaner energy sources. Hopefully others have joined the program too and are also demonstrating to the suits at Southern Company (which owns Georgia Power) that these things are a worthy and profitable investment.

But I'm just one person, or perhaps one "household" in corporate-speak. I don't have the power of the federal government backing my consumer decisions, and I can't pass laws or fund projects that would cause a semi-permanent improvement in the situation. I'm sure the House did more than just buy carbon offsets to go to questionable projects, but really, they could pass a bill mandating the planting of a million new trees on federal land each year, and fund it for probably about the same cost.

I understand the impulse to "go green" and do simple little things to save energy and conserve resources, but if you're the US House of Representatives, you really should dream bigger than that. You don't have to go through brokers to achieve your ends, you can pass laws that create small, intelligent, funded programs and make a real difference. There's something depressing about the idea that the federal government is using the same methods I am to impact the environment. It has so much more power than I do, and it appears to have squandered it.

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