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The Trouble With Farm Offsets

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The New Republic, Bradford Plumer

Excerpt:

The Environmental Working Group recently analyzed the House climate bill and noted that the legislation allows farmers to earn credits under the cap-and-trade regime for practices such as low or no-till farming even if they've been going on since 2001. In other words, the offsets wouldn't always necessarily go toward new reductions. EWG estimated that, under this system, utilities could get a free pass for anywhere between 87 and 148 million metric tons of pollution each year. That could, in theory, weaken the bill's already modest 2020 greenhouse-gas reduction targets by 8 to 13 percent.

The second, equally worrisome provision involves something called "term offset credits," and refers to agricultural practices that sequester carbon in the ground. The problem here is that, as it stands, the House bill only requires the practices to be maintained for five years, after which farmers are free to abandon the project (and, in effect, release the sequestered carbon back in the atmosphere). To make matters worse, farmers could then apply for more carbon offsets and repeat the process over again.

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