Lorie Byrd

Along with a Sunday night Oscar win and accompanying praise for his work on the issue of global warming, Al Gore received a heaping serving of criticism this week for his personal energy consumption. Gore’s defense to the criticism could eventually require some peculiar political posturing.

This week the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (http://www.tennesseepolicy.org/main/article.php?article_id=367) made public the energy consumption figures for one of Gore’s several homes, revealing consumption more than twenty times that of the average American home. Others have criticized Gore’s frequent use of private jets.

Gore’s response to criticism of his energy lifestyle choices, and of the apparent hypocrisy on the issue, was to say that he purchases carbon offsets to make up for the private jet trips and energy gobbling mansions.

Carbon offsets are currently the favorite defense of rich “do as I say, not as I do” celebrities when confronted with exposure of their lavish, and not so eco-friendly lifestyles.

Carbon offsets are explained at My Carbon Debt.com (http://www.mycarbondebt.com/) as follows: “Offsetting is the process by which you pay someone to reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere by the exact amount that your day to day activities increase it, thus paying your Carbon Debt, and neutralizing your impact on the environment. “ One popular carbon offset is tree planting. Another is the purchase of carbon credits for companies and groups that promote and engage in activities that reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Putting aside for the moment whether or not anything man can do can affect global climate change, the concept of offsets presents some interesting political challenges for those promoting it.

One of those challenges is moral and ethical in nature. If global warming is truly a dire threat to the existence of life on earth as Gore and others claim, and if human activity contributes to the problem, what could possibly justify the excessive (I would even say obscene) energy consumption of Gore and other limousine liberals? If paying someone else to behave better than you do (through offsets) is a sufficient answer, I have to wonder just how real the problem is. I also wonder just how much bad behavior can be forgiven with the purchase of offsets.

Would Gore be as enthusiastic to embrace the use of offsets when it comes to other human activity that impacts the environment? The possibilities abound. How about a Litter Offset, for example? Could purchasing an offset make it okay to throw a fast food wrapper and aluminum can out of a car window? Let’s say an individual could purchase an offset that would pay for a couple of people with those pointy sticks to pick up trash on the roadside for an hour. Since even that small clean up crew would certainly pick up more trash in an hour than the original fast food wrapper and aluminum can that were discarded, it would seem the environment would be in much better shape as a result of the Litter Offset. It sounds like a winning plan to me. Offsets for everyone!

How about a Toxic Waste Offset? Companies that dump toxic waste into the waterways could absolve themselves of any responsibility for the way they affect the environment by purchasing offsets. The offsets could go to clean up dumpsites and to incentives paid to companies that don’t dump. How about Oil Spill Offsets for big oil polluters?

My personal favorite offset idea is one I call the Aqua Net Offset. This offset would allow chicks with big hair (and select male news reporters) to pay others not to use aerosol hairspray, thereby offsetting their own excessive consumption. Just consider the impact of the Donald Trump offset alone! It might reduce greenhouse gases more than all of Al Gore’s carbon offsets combined. Follow me on this one. Last year it was reported (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,209520,00.html) that one result of efforts to reduce chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) was that some of the chemicals that replaced them in refrigerants and aerosols, while better for the ozone layer, “act as a reflective layer in the atmosphere that traps heat like a greenhouse.” The fix for the ozone layer contributed to greenhouse gases, which many believe contribute to global warming. My Aqua Net Offset could have prevented all that and might just have kept Big Hair in style, as well. (Okay, admittedly that is a drawback.)

Now that I have had my fun demonstrating the absurdity of using carbon offsets to excuse excessive consumption, there is one other problem with the concept that is perhaps even more politically tricky for those espousing it than the moral one. I am talking about the wealth and privilege factor. The “little man” is currently being told by the global warming alarmists to change his behavior to reduce his “carbon footprint,” while the “big rich man,” who has plenty of spare cash to spend on offsets, is flying around on private jets and living in multiple mansions sucking up huge amounts of energy. The average American is going to have a problem with that indulgence.

Maybe the politicians touting offsets will find a solution to that problem too though. Perhaps offset subsidies? Then the poor who can’t afford hybrids and are forced by their circumstances to drive old gas guzzlers could get government subsidized offsets and then everyone could enjoy guilt-free zero carbon footprint energy consumption. Forget the carbon tax -- offsets for all!


Lorie Byrd

Lorie Byrd is a Townhall.com columnist and blogs at Wizbang and at LorieByrd.com.

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