Responsible homeowners usually are very interested to learn about ways to save energy and help convert ours to a more sustainable energy economy. I certainly am. Maybe you already recycle, maintain a worm bin, and have replaced single-paned windows with double-panes. You have beefed up the insulation in your home, are using compact fluorescent lighting, and you’ve purchased a car that gets better mileage. What next? I believe that purchasing Green Power, from my electrical utility, and carbon offsets, from any of several different organizations, can help to build the infrastructure that will move us to cleaner, sustainable sources of power.
Green Power is one way that homeowners can help foster a market for sustainable energy. While the Federal Government continues to use tax subsidies and other kinds of corporate welfare to support dirty forms of energy which are polluting and not sustainable, many private and some public utilities are offering green power options to their customers. By purchasing green power, energy customers can help move our nation to more secure forms of energy production.
Puget Sound Energy offers Green Power to its customers. Wind, solar and biomass are the primary forms of energy production for this program. PSE customers can participate in the Green Power program for as little as $4 per month, which allows PSE to buy 320 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of renewable energy from sources here in the Pacific Northwest. Additional quantities of Green Power are available in increments of 160 kWh at $2 each.
My home is already heated with a highly-efficient geothermal heat pump. Although mine is an all-electric home, my electrical bills are typically well below a similarly-sized home. For this reason, it was easy for me to choose to purchase 100 percent of my energy from renewable sources. This added $0.0125 per kWh on top of my monthly electric charges.
PSE customer can learn more about Green Power at http://www.pse.com/solutions/GreenPower_SignupHome.aspx.
Another important method of investing in a renewable energy future is to purchase carbon offsets.
Essentially, the idea behind carbon offset is that we all contribute to global warming. We all have a “carbon footprint,” the total carbon dioxide emissions we create when we drive or fly or use electricity. The first steps we can take to fight global warming is to reduce our carbon footprint through conservation. We drive less. Turn down the thermostat. Buy locally produced goods and automobiles which are more fuel-efficient.
With carbon offsets, we can reduce our carbon footprint all the way to zero.
By purchasing carbon offsets, your money funds renewable energy projects such as wind farms. These projects result in verified reductions in greenhouse gas pollution. And these reductions counterbalance your own emissions.
Carbon offsets can be purchased for your home, your car, and for travel. There are even new offsets for large events, such as weddings. Offsets are for home and car are typically purchased for a year at a time. Some travel agencies are now making carbon offset purchases available as part of the ticketing process.
Even Queen Elizabeth, during her recent trip to the U.S., purchased carbon offsets against the greenhouse gasses generated as a result of her aircraft travel.
Collected funds are used to finance projects which are independently verified to produce the carbon offset. Projects typically include clean energy such as wind and biodiesel; biomass such as dairy farm methane; and industrial efficiency.
Carbon offsets are cheaper and easier to purchase than you may think. For example, a 2004 Ford Taurus, driven about 12,000 miles per year, is estimated to produce 9,997 lbs of CO2 per year. An annual carbon offset for this amount of CO2 costs $49.95 or less.
Several entrepreneurs have created consumer-oriented program to make carbon offsets readily available.
Is this cheating? Some environmentalists argue the purchase of carbon offsets provides consumers with a way to buy their way out of the need to actual reduce their carbon footprint. That owner of the 2004 Ford Taurus ought to ride a bicycle and purchase a hybrid car, instead of purchasing carbon offsets and continuing to drive the Taurus. Some have gone so far as to compare carbon offsets to the sale of indulgences, by the Catholic Church, of the kind that led to the rise of Protestantism!
Supporters of carbon offsets argue that, at this point in the creation of our new energy infrastructure, economically viable projects can be funded with carbon offsets. They also argue that purchasers of carbon offsets are typically taking other steps in their lives, to reduce their footprint on the planet.
The purchase of carbon offsets is a legitimate market response to demands that we move away from dirty, non-sustainable energy sources, to cleaner and renewable ones.
In my own case, purchasing carbon offsets for my cars and my home is a useful first step, while I investigate methods of solar water heating and await the arrival of plug-in hybrid automobiles. I am confident the money I am paying in carbon offsets is being used to fund projects which will generate renewable energy far into the future. The purchase of carbon offsets is an important component in my investment in the world my children will inherit.
For more information on purchasing carbon offsets:
On Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_offset
A Consumer’s Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers (PDF file) from Clean Air – Cool Planet: http://www.cleanair-coolplanet.org/ConsumersGuidetoCarbonOffsets.pdf
The Climate Trust: http://www.climatetrust.org/
Zero Footprint: http://www.zerofootprint.net/
“How to Buy a Carbon Offset” from wikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Buy-a-Carbon-Offset
— MARK MESSINGER