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.