California’s Costly “Cap and Trade” Forest Emission Offsets Program Just Climate Alarmism Incompetence

Guest essay by Larry Hamlin

An excellent article by Susan Shelley published in the Orange County Register exposes how utterly “net zero” worthless the state’s CARB (California Air Resources Board) mandated forest carbon emission offsets are that supposedly decrease the state’s emissions while increasing costs to California residents and businesses. In reality the states forest emission offset program is actually detrimental to the states emissions reduction schemes because it results in emissions increasing.

This very embarrassing and public dispute came about as a result of a study by a San Francisco nonprofit called CarbonPlan that concluded forest carbon emission credits are actually causing an increase in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In summary the article sets the stage for this CARB created dilemma and explores the emerging debacle by noting:

“Today virtually every corporation in America is under pressure to declare that it is working toward becoming “carbon neutral” or “net zero.” On the home page of Google, a little green leaf accompanies the pious statement, “Carbon neutral since 2007.”

But what does that mean, exactly? It means that the company has calculated the greenhouse gas emissions from its operations and then purchased “offsets” to reach neutrality.”

“California, which accounts for only about 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, has laws on the books requiring a steady reduction in GHG emissions. These laws are enforced by the California Air Resources Board. To do this, CARB invented a “cap and trade” program that puts an annual cap on how many tons of GHG may be emitted by “polluters” such as utilities producing electricity, or refineries producing transportation fuels, or manufacturers producing materials or finished goods. “Polluters” must have permits or offsets for their greenhouse gas emissions.”

“This is where the forests make their entrance into this story. Trees consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Tons of carbon are “sequestered” in forests, stored in the trunks, branches and roots of trees. Cutting the tree releases the carbon. So paying a landowner not to cut trees is an “offset.”

The Register article then further notes that unfortunately for California the CarbonPlan study found that:

“Some activists point out that if there were never going to be any logging operations in those forests anyway, the net effect of selling the carbon credits is to allow “polluters” to emit more tons of greenhouse gases.”

“For consumers in California, the outcome of all this magical thinking is a higher cost of living. When a utility or a refinery or a manufacturer spends millions of dollars buying “carbon credits,” who ultimately pays for it? The consumer, of course. Prices go up when costs go up. But what does it do for the climate?


A likely contributor to how this CARB forest emissions offset debacle was created is that California focused extensive regulatory efforts in establishing the bureaucratic procedures under state law defining how companies must pay extra costs by participating in the states emissions offset “markets”, but that insufficient attention was paid to scrutinizing whether forest offsets emission “markets” had any connection to reality.

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June 1, 2021 6:12 am

What if?…what if CO2 is not causing any climate warming? Are all trees equal in this CO2 scheme? What about an acre of bamboo compared to trees?

Peter Fraser
Reply to  Anti_griff
June 1, 2021 5:45 pm

You bamboozled me. Sorry I couldn’t help it.

John Dueker
June 1, 2021 6:20 am

Sorry but CARB and the entire state suffer from “insufficient attention was paid to scrutinizing whether forest offsets emission “markets” had any connection to reality.”

Creating and monetizing a complex bureaucracy to manage magical theoretical actions demonstrates the lunatics are in complete control of asylum California.

Reply to  John Dueker
June 1, 2021 9:01 am

You get a lot of “angels dancing on pins” type of questions and answers when you start talking carbon credits. Lots of details have to get ignored or tossed aside for any of the conversations to make any sense.

Reply to  John Dueker
June 1, 2021 9:43 am

It’s all about the “Benjamins”

Joseph Zorzin
June 1, 2021 6:25 am

““Today virtually every corporation in America is under pressure to declare that it is working toward becoming “carbon neutral” or “net zero.””

Maybe some corporation should courageously say they are NOT working towards being net zero. Are there any now?

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 1, 2021 7:19 am

The cancel culture is the Damocles sword above the heads of corporate CEO’s.

The most effective way to support oppression is when the oppressed are afraid to express dissent for fear of disappearing. The lefts ‘compassionate’ version of making ideological opponents disappear is to cancel you and your digital footprint and no company can afford that.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 1, 2021 10:03 pm


Bryan A
June 1, 2021 6:28 am

Sounds like the “Forest Carbon Emissions” scheme is nothing more than a costly way for the state government to pull an ENRON around corporations

Joseph Zorzin
June 1, 2021 6:35 am

Even it there really is a climate problem due to CO2 and other GHG- locking up forests would still be a dumb idea for many reasons. First, no forest can continue to sequester carbon forever. At some point tree mortality matches growth so the total amount of wood in any forest will level off and in some cases decline. It all depends on the type of forest and many other factors. Also, locking up forests means less wood is available for human use- for homes, furniture, paper products and energy. But people will still want wood products so the wood will be cut somewhere else. Outside North America and northern Europe, forest cutting is poorly done – simply clearcut and the land is converted to some other use. For decades, many people have tried to lock up forests with many false claims. I’m not defending all forestry, not even in North America- where much of it is still poorly done, often the forests are high graded- meaning they “cut the best and left the rest”. The real problem regarding forests isn’t whether or not they’re cut but whether or not it’s done right- meaning in such a way as to encourage the site to retain healthy trees of the species we think best suited to the site and which will produce economic value for the owners.

Michael in Dublin
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 1, 2021 7:26 am

Joseph Zorzin your “rant” is filled with too much careful reasoning and logic. If anyone listens to you and follows he or she will no longer buy into the alarmist narrative and that would be a disaster for these activists. But thanks anyway and we really need many more rants like this.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Michael in Dublin
June 1, 2021 8:38 am

I’ve been “ranting” here in Massachusetts for at least 30 years on the topic of forestry due to the state being extremely corrupt and incompetent, in general, and especially regarding forestry laws and rules and regulations and their oversight of forestry. Also, the forestry industry is also rather corrupt- lots of thieves. The state licensing board has tried to bust me twice, but failed to do so over my “ranting”- thanks to freedom of speech- which I enjoy. Most others here- the good forestry people are too fearful to speak up. I put up the first forestry web site in the Northeast back in ’97, mostly filled with more “rants” against bad forestry. The only subject I’m an expert on is forestry- especially in the American northeast.

Bill Rocks
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 1, 2021 9:09 am


You write, concerning forestry in the NE USA, “Also, the forestry industry is also rather corrupt- lots of thieves.” I am interested in what kind of theft is involved. Further comment or redirect is appreciated.

I do agree that the forest carbon scheme is not attractive to most forest owners and has bogus aspects. In the Pacific Northwest, USA, the most attractive forest carbon offset tracts are young stands of rapidly-growing soft wood (fir trees), not mature forests where growth rate has declined and the forest floor is replete with rotting (=CO2 producing) debris. The old forests can, regardless, enable additional habitat for various creatures compared to young industrial forests but this provides an excuse for extremists to attempt to “lock up” as much forest land as possible.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Bill Rocks
June 1, 2021 9:58 am

Lots of ways to be a thief in forestry.

  • don’t report to the owner how much you actually cut
  • lie about the quality and value and pay much less that the wood is worth
  • lie about how it’s done- that is, cut the best and leave the rest which hurts the future productivity of the forest
  • cut timber over the boundaries if they think the neighbor won’t notice- then if caught, act stupid
  • some mills have foresters on their staff- it’s easier for them to lie to owners because they can sound professional- but, it’s their job to make money for the mill, not to serve the interest of the owner
  • a classic lie by loggers and foresters is to say, “better cut the timber and put your money in to the stock market”- which is fine if the forest is cut correctly but too often it isn’t- and, if you leave the best trees, they can often produce real economic value faster than the stock market
  • the states claim to oversee forestry with lots of rules and regs- but these don’t include determining if the logger paid a fair price

Being a thief in forestry is like taking candy from a baby. I could have made a lot more money, as a consulting forester, if I had practiced these easy scams. Nobody would have known but me. Like robbing a bank only safer- you won’t get caught or shot by a cop!

Regarding those young fast growing softwood stands. The fact is that the forest will thin itself- many of those young trees won’t survive- so trying to track the carbon in those forests is very, very difficult. And lots of things can happen- storms, fires, disease, etc. I just think using forests as carbon offsets is a really bogus idea- not just because I don’t believe there is a climate “crisis” but I do think most forest land should be managed for the long term to be economic producers plus look nice plus be good habitat- and it can do all of that- without mixing up forestry with climate silliness. Here in the northeast is a new movement called Proforestation- to lock up forests to serve only one purpose- sequester carbon- pushed by a retired professor who lives in a really big wood home!

For people who strongly think forests should offer carbon offsets- there is the view of the New England Forestry Foundation which has come up with its Exemplary Forestry approach which includes harvesting wood while aiming to hold high volumes of wood on the site (which may or may not qualify as offsets): rather than locking up the forest. If one of my clients tells me that they are concerned about carbon I’ll mention this Exemplary thing to them- but none ever do. Most say they want the money- but to have the job look decent. I sometimes get them to back off the money in the short term for the long term. Long term economics and long term silviculture. You can some of this on a colleague’s Facebook photo album, which I consider to be the best forestry thing on the internet: and I have some rank amateur videos- 3 are logging projects and one is the construction of a solar “farm” right next to my home: and it includes a few wacky videos taken with my 360 deg camera.

One last comment- even if everyone involved with a timber project is honest and competent and wants to do it right- it’s not easy. Send big machines in the forests to haul out big trees is very difficult. When done well, it’ll look pretty good in a decade or so. When done right it’ll be a mess for a very long time.

Bill Rocks
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 1, 2021 10:17 am


Many thanks for your reply. I will study the links you provide and appreciate your generous sharing of experience and writing ability.

We have ways to deal with some of the problems you list. One is that we never sell stumpage, we enter into a harvest contract. Logs are examined in the log deck and marketing strategies are discussed when needed. Every load is documented and the purchaser supplies a detailed scale sheet, each log is detailed except for pulp loads which are minimal. Logs are scaled and graded by independent grading bureaus. Our loggers (family-owned, honest company) are paid a % of the gross thereby an incentive to sell to best market which we constant monitor. We specify what is to be cut with clear harvest boundaries. And so forth. Simple but works for small companies such as ours.

Best wishes.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Bill Rocks
June 1, 2021 10:31 am

I would never say there is only one correct way to do forestry. It all depends on many factors- especially location, size of property, type of ownership, etc. What’s important to me is long term silviculture- so trees are not harvested prematurely and that trees that no longer are producing wealth for the owner are removed. At least in this region, this raises the problem of biomass, because many people think burning wood is a terrible idea. I don’t believe that- and it’s the only market for the lowest value wood. I usually but don’t always put the wood out to bid. I mark/tally every tree to be cut based on long term silviculture and economics. Decades ago I’d have 20 timber buyers show up but most of the mills in MA have gone out of business. Now only a few are left- but there are still quite a few independent loggers- who mostly sell logs/pulp/chips to mills in VT, NH and Maine.

Bill Rocks
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 1, 2021 12:47 pm


“What’s important to me is long term silviculture-“. I agree.

Sounds like you provide an honorable and valuable service to your clients.

Best wishes,

Bill Rocks

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 1, 2021 8:35 am

China is helping manage forests in Africa…cut those trees down and turn ’em into floor tiles.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Anti_griff
June 1, 2021 8:40 am

Nothing wrong with turn some trees into floor tiles if the forest is retained and managed for the long term- for which it can produce wealth for the owners and hold carbon and be a habitat and other good ecosystem values. But I suspect the cutting is not geared for the long term. I wasn’t aware of what you say but I’m interested.

Paul Stevens
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 1, 2021 9:23 am

Of course, there is the point that things made of wood are typically the most environmentally benign, from almost all aspects. This makes wood the desired material to use. Not sure how to parse that in the sustainability universe, but given that the “greens” primary aim seems to be to reduce consumption and lower human impacts, whether good or bad, I suspect they would prefer that trees be left to grow, and things like tables, chairs and bed frames not exist, when a mat for the floor for lying or sitting on would do as well.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Paul Stevens
June 1, 2021 10:04 am

The big critics of forestry- who’d like to lock up all the forests- all live in nice wood homes with nice furniture and tons of paper products. One forestry critic here in MA is a retired piano teacher at an ivy league college- who owns several antique pianos and I can only wonder where the wood came from to make them- I bet some is from the tropics. Most forestry critics are hypicrites who understand very little about forests and forestry. Selling the idea of reduced consumption isn’t going to go well- especially when the critics refuse to show us the way- other than the well off ones who can buy a EV and afford heat pumps for their home.

Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 1, 2021 6:08 pm

Maybe this policy contributes to the forest fire problem in California. People are actively discouraged from managing their land, the state and feds don’t do anything, the fuel builds up and burns everything in its path when it gets started.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 2, 2021 1:43 pm

There are numerous potential problems with trying to calculate the difference between carbon emitted by typical logging practices and from the emissions generated by keeping the stand in a carbon reserve.

The fact that this hit piece on the CARB system can only come up with the question of whether or not that stand were really in line for harvest- something trivial to determine- testifies to the rigor and accuracy of the CARB forest offset system.

Forest offsets define “permanent” storage as lasting 100 years- a long ways from real permanence, but still 95 years longer at least than media’s attention span.

June 1, 2021 6:36 am

Reality and CARB don’t go together.

June 1, 2021 6:40 am

Here is some more reality coming your way…..

OPEC, Russia seen gaining more power with Shell Dutch ruling (

June 1, 2021 6:53 am

Follow the money. Someone is getting all that money from the corporations that are buying the credits. Most likely it’s the owners of the forests, but who are those owners? Odds favor the hunch that they are just a few large corporations that managed to lobby this boondoggle into being, but what are the facts?

And are any of those on the CARB commission setting these rules owners of forest property, or have some other monetary interest in how they are doing?

Again, someone should follow the money, all the way from its source to the final recipients, just to verify that everything is on the up and up, economically stupid though it might be.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Rod
June 1, 2021 6:58 am

It’s not easy for forest owners to sell carbon credits. You have to have your forest audited and that’s extremely expensive. It’s not very profitable to the owners- maybe it is to those who run these schemes. Here in New England, few forest owners try to sell credits. Too much trouble. It’s a really bad idea.

June 1, 2021 6:59 am

Yet they refuse to manage the forests to prevent or limit fires. Have they ever had a good idea?

June 1, 2021 7:08 am

We’ve had green credits & plantations in Australia. Many were poorly managed, lost money. After a few years, trees die from a lack of water. Some plantations sold to be cleared of the low value saplings (undoing the planting, no carbon credit in reality). Some even had fires burn them down (a big waste). You’d think with such valuable trees they would have a reliable water source, tanks, spinklers/hoses/pipes & pumps to fight fires. They just took investors funds, tax incentives, carbon credits or latest fad scheme & burnt the money.
Headlines about saving the planet, imaginary carbon credits but a net zero IQ.

Reply to  tygrus
June 1, 2021 7:34 am

I think you must have to have a very low to zero IQ to get in on this scam. Unfortunately, I don’t qualify.

I figured that it was not only possible, but relatively easy to NOT farm steer online. Never made a dime off of the idea, even though it’s still not general knowledge that cow farts are actually renewable pops of methane.

I’m pretty certain I could NOT grow forests online too. Where are all the takers for my fabulous online programs ??

Reply to  tygrus
June 1, 2021 2:35 pm

Commercial timber trees trees in a drought prone area is a non starter do not waste your money. I see people especialy on smaller holdings installing irrigation on woodlots,(weed control is what ensures good establishment not irrigation) money spent early in rotation (IRR / NPV) and ongoing expenses kills the economics of any forest .
Fire suppression should be part of any forest but often isn’t especially in investment forests.
Yes I agree tax incentives and handouts just attract fraud

Thomas Gasloli
June 1, 2021 7:24 am

The TV show “King of the Hill” did a hilarious take on this years ago. Dale and a farmer sold credits on a wood lot no one planned to cut down. As Hank tries to explain to a crowd that “we’ve done nothing” they cheer “zero emissions!l”

Jeffery P
June 1, 2021 7:25 am

What’s to keep a land owner for selling carbon offsets to multiple companies? Is there a central registry?

Steve Case
June 1, 2021 7:37 am

This reminds me of the Second Hand Smoke crusade of nearly 30 years ago. The argument was that lung cancer due to smoking and second hand smoke was running up medical costs. The reality of the situation is that the earlier a person dies, their total life time medical cost to society would be less. People just rolled their eyes when I told them that, but it’s true.

Think about it, the still born baby born in 1930 has zero impact on today’s medical costs, but his twin who survived until this day is probably racking up tens of thousands of dollars in nursing home and medical costs to avoid the grave. The shorter the life span a person has, the less the life time medical costs.

Can’t find a link but the late Dave Berkman who ran a “Media Musings” column in the Shepherd Express, a free liberal rag still available in most Milwaukee area food stores, made the same argument in his regular output of mostly left-wing crap.

June 1, 2021 7:55 am

One of the consequences of California’s insane climate policies is gas costing well over $5 per gallon in many places. I just traveled the 395 corridor to close down Mammoth Mountain and when you cross the border from Nevada to California, gas prices jump from $3.27 in Minden, NV to as much as $5.39 per gallon in Bridgeport, CA. This is just one of many reasons I consider myself a California climate policy refugee.

The left fails to accept trickle down economics because they don’t want to admit that the opposite also occurs. High energy prices trickle up to inflate the price of everything which only ends up hurting those who have the least to begin with. While CO2 isn’t the control knob of the climate, energy prices are the control knob for inflation.

Steve Case
Reply to  co2isnotevil
June 1, 2021 8:10 am

 While CO2 isn’t the control knob of the climate,
energy prices are the control knob for inflation.

Good one! That’s going into my file of quotes factoids and smart remarks (-:

Paul Johnson
June 1, 2021 8:32 am

All this does is encourage bad forest management and the build-up of fuel for the next round of wildfires. When the uncut trees burn and release their accumulated carbon, is there a “claw back” provision to rescind the invalidated credits?

Mike Dubrasich
Reply to  Paul Johnson
June 1, 2021 9:43 am

Exactamente! Call It Phony has a huge ongoing forest fire crisis. The GHG emissions from their fires exceed all other sources combined. By not managing (cutting) trees they exacerbate the hazard and the smoke.

The fake bleeders who buy offsets and then have their holy trees incinerated by Idiots In Government (IIG) should be forced to pay double, once for nothing and again for stupid.

Bruce Cobb
June 1, 2021 8:48 am

Climate Change ideology is Stupid all the way down.

June 1, 2021 8:51 am

They tie themselves up in knots

Just give them enough rope

June 1, 2021 8:54 am

Even worse is the hysteria they generated led to a cap ‘n trade tax on gasoline being passed in an election about 2-3 years ago, which nobody really understood until just the past month, when it was reported that the gasoline tax was going to be incremented again in July on top of the skyrocketing increase in pump prices. The tax measure included a little noticed annual increase tied to cost of living, every year in July. Now Californians are stuck with it unless they awaken and elect different leaders to change things.

June 1, 2021 9:01 am

Part of the proceeds from the carbon emissions trading scheme went to the high speed rail boondoggle. The proceeds were supposed to fund research and deployment for wind and solar energy. So, if the high speed rail boondoggle is ever built (doubtful), it won’t have the required renewable energy generation available to power it.

Apologies in advance for citing Grist.

June 1, 2021 9:12 am

For those who believe that CO2 heats atmosphere, there is a solar eclipse next week so they can observe the CO2’s contribution, that is if we survive today’s flyby of largish asteroid 2021 KT1. 

June 1, 2021 9:13 am

“Cutting the tree releases the carbon.”

How exactly does cutting the tree, release the carbon? If one takes a tree, and creates the building blocks of furniture or houses, how is this not sequestering carbon???

June 1, 2021 9:37 am

purchased “offsets” to reach neutrality

Isn’t this the same problem that brought about the Reformation, except they called them “indulgences” ? Martin Luther would be depressed.
It may explain why nobody wants to use phrases like “carbon sins” or “eco sins”.

June 1, 2021 10:03 am

Cutting the trees does not necessarily release the carbon (dioxide). Yes there would be some released as waste material (sawdust, bark, limbs) are burned as hog fuel, but if the bulk of the wood is made into lumber and paper, it is sequestered, possibly for centuries. At the same time, the new forest that grows up to replace the logged trees will, over time, absorb much more carbon dioxide than the old forest would if left standing. Trees never stop growing for as long as they live, but a mature, old-growth forest eventually reaches a stage where growth is minimal and is sometimes exceeded by decay for a net emission of CO2.

But as long as they can pretend to be CO2 neutral, they’ll ignore reality.

Reply to  Art
June 1, 2021 11:00 am

Besides, forests have pretty much reached equilibrium. Trees don’t live forever. As they grow they absorb CO2 and when they die they release it as they either rot or burn. There is NO extra CO2 absorption available for carbon(dioxide) credits.

June 1, 2021 10:12 am

Obama started singing the “Cap And Trade” mantra along with Gore’s carbon trading fiasco. Both memes failed. Not because they weren’t steeped enough in virtue signaling but because it didn’t take a rocket scientist to determine the net savings of CO2 production were zero and both were nothing more than scams to collect money from industry.

June 1, 2021 11:04 am

This is why I always laugh when I see the term “NET-zero”. Net-zero is nothing but pure marketing BS. Buy up a bunch of “certificates” that you can wave in front of green activists to prove that you’re “making a difference” and they eat it up and flock to buy your product. Probably costs less than regular advertising.

June 1, 2021 11:10 am

….and where does the USA wood pellet industry sit in this discussion. Billions of tonnes of US trees are turned into pellets to be transported to a dock, loaded on a ship, transported to a UK port, rakled to DRAX power station in Yorkshire and burnt to run a generator to make “renewable” electricity. These US wood pellets make up 15% of UK’s “renewable energy”
The world has gone crazy.

June 1, 2021 11:16 am

When I first heard of Cap and Trade in relation to CAGW, I smelled scam and that someone stood to make a ton of money. It was clear that a lot of that money would be coming out of my pocket, and for what?

Cap and Trade was a huge red flag, particularly since Big Al was involved and doing nothing to reduce his CO2 emissions.

It’s what got me to look at the “CO2 will cause the oceans to boil” nonsense and how I found WUWT around 2008.
P.S. If googly-goo is CO2 net neutral, I’m figuring that they bought a gazillion Carbon Credits when the market crashed and the credits were sold for fractional cents. I haven’t heard that they are actively buying them. Could well be, but I haven’t heard about it.

Zig Zag Wanderer
June 1, 2021 1:37 pm

who ultimately pays for it? The consumer, of course. Prices go up when costs go up. But what does it do for the climate?


A pretty succinct description of all ‘Climate Change’ policies

June 1, 2021 9:55 pm

Well I question what the relevance of whether you are going to log your land has to do with whether you are effectively going to sequester carbon. If you harvest your timber and it’s turned into 2×6’s then the carbon may well be sequestered for longer than the timber would.

Of course if it’s turned into wood chips and shipped to the UK as ‘carbon neutral’ fuel maybe not so much, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were a combination of the two.

Louis Hunt
June 2, 2021 3:40 pm

Typical Progressive: “We have to do something, even if our actions cause more harm than good. It’s the thought (virtue signal) that counts.”

Fred Chittenden
June 4, 2021 6:18 pm

Seems the Cap and Trade program is mostly a program created to capture and trade BS…

Basically, the hysteria of Global Baloney and the BS cap and trade programs are designed as a way to make (aka sequester) money out of BS (less than thin air)… The more BS there is moving around due to climate hysteria, the more BS there is for someone to sequester…

It’s political science chasing, catching and getting fat off of eating it’s own BS tail…

The more BS that is put out there in support of BS, the more money there is to be sequestered in someone’s wallet…

Fine print — You can be pretty sure that “someone’s wallet” is not your wallet..

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