10/02/2009 05:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Carbon Offsets And Climate Legislation

Senators Kerry and Boxer released their long anticipated climate bill last week, pleasing many, including the Carbon Regulatory Offset Committee, or CROC. CROC (our dark alter-ego) is "happy" with the bill because it contains the same 2 billion tons of annual offsets made available to big polluters in the Waxman-Markey bill, the House climate legislation that narrowly passed the House this summer. As CROC says on its Twitter profile, it's pro carbon offsets because offsets have "magic" and "logic."

Of course CROC is a joke, as you can see in the "Public Service Announcement" video above, which stars former Daily Show cast member Dan Bakkedahl, but the problems created by too many carbon offsets are not funny at all. Greenpeace opposed the House version of the bill in part because of the huge amounts of offsets made available to polluters.

Here's why. To avoid the worst effects of global warming, we must reduce emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020, and the short term target of this bill is a paltry 4%. The massive offsets in this bill means that we can continue at our current emissions level for years, and huge giveaways mean a new generation of nuclear and coal plants.

Here"s what the Senate bill would set up:

--It allows heavy polluters to buy cheap offsets instead of the more expensive technology to actually reduce their own emissions at home.

--It establishes a new office of offsets integrity within the Justice Department to verify that carbon credits actually work.

--It limits the number of offsets that can come from overseas to a quarter of projects, as opposed to the House bill, which allows for half to come from abroad.

One special interest that's not happy with the Senate changes is Big Ag:

"It's taking a step backwards. It's not acceptable," said Fred Yoder of the National Corn Growers Association about the language shifting responsibility for an offset program to the president. Like representatives from other farm groups, he said the Agriculture Department needs to have clear authority over all projects in the agriculture and forestry sectors.

Offset champion Rick Boucher (D-VA) in the House has to say about the Senate's offsets provisions. When Boucher worked in the 2 billion tons of offsets into the House bill, he said that an "...electric utility burning coal will not have to reduce the emissions at the plant site. It can just keep burning coal."

"It (the coal plant) can just keep burning coal" pretty much says it all. Low quality offsets undermine the bill's integrity and must be taken out.