The Washington Post ran a front page story earlier this week on the wild and unregulated world of carbon offset markets. The basic idea is that one purchases some off set — either in the form of technological development or contracts not to emit — for one’s own carbon emissions so that one’s over all carbon footprint is zero. This is just the sort of environmentalism that makes my free-market-contracts-prof’s heart go pitter patter. The regulators, however, are now snooping around. As The Post reports:
Critics say that offset sellers usually have good motives. But the market is confusing enough that, this month, the Federal Trade Commission said it would look into whether consumers are being adequately protected.
“It’s just like the Wild West,” said Frank O’Donnell of the group Clean Air Watch. “There are no controls, no standards.”
Having grown-up in the West, I object to “Wild West” as a term of regulatory derision, but it strikes me that there is a deeper problem here, namely what exactly is it that a person is trying to get when they do a carbon offset.