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January 28, 2008

The Emperor's New Carbon Offsets

As government waste goes, $89,000 will barely register on the meter. However, it did provide a relatively inexpensive demonstration on the costliness of political fads and the vacuousness of carbon-offset markets as a solution for purported anthropogenic climate change. It also, once again, demonstrated the connection between contributors and policy:

The House of Representatives has presumably learned that money cannot buy love or happiness. Now, it turns out it's not a sure solution to climate guilt, either.

In November, the Democratic-led House spent about $89,000 on so-called carbon offsets. This purchase was supposed to cancel out greenhouse-gas emissions from House buildings -- including half of the U.S. Capitol -- by triggering an equal reduction in emissions elsewhere.

Some of the money went to farmers in North Dakota, for tilling practices that keep carbon buried in the soil. But some farmers were already doing this, for other reasons, before the House paid a cent.

Other funds went to Iowa, where a power plant had been temporarily rejiggered to burn more cleanly. But that test project had ended more than a year before the money arrived.

Congress, in effect, burned $89,000 for no reason at all. Of course, I speak figuratively; had they actually burned the money, it could have at least heated a home for a low-income family, although it would have produced unacceptable carbon emissions. Not a single molecule of carbon emissions got avioded, but a lot of Democrats emitted smug into the DC political atmosphere (apologies to South Park), and perhaps more than $90,000 worth of it.

So Congressional Democrats didn't reduce carbon emissions, but they did manage to increase their contributions. Brian Faughnan at the Weekly Standard did a little checking on the efforts by the Chicago Climate Exchange in the political arena, and discovered that one of its directors has a special connection to the Democrats. Stuart Eizenstat served in both the Carter and Clinton administrations, and he did his part for 2007's candidates, too. Fourteen donations went to Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton -- in fact, all of the Senatorial candidates in the race. They received over $10,000, and the DCCC got another $1000.

Let's recap. The Democrats got five figures from Eizenstat, who then got $89,000 in federal money to provide exactly nothing to Congress. It's the Emperor's New Clothes all over again.


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