Environmental Protection

Hurrying a Carbon Neutral Society

Comment:Visions contacted me last week and asked what I thought it would take to "really speed up" the transition to a carbon neutral society. I'm no expert but my first response was: Is that what we are aiming for? Is that even scientifically possible?

For the sake of argument, let's say it is. There are billions of people on Earth. Can we make a difference by all driving electric cars or switching to biofuels? Maybe a dent.

The Carbon Neutral Society says it uses education and carbon offsets and reductions to achieve its mission of making the process easy and affordable. The site offers more than 50 steps (several of them require the use of vinegar) to green your home but it doesn't really explain what gains will be made toward neutrality. Strangely enough, I was unable to access the material behind the tab "Carbon Credits." (Actually, the more time I spent on this site, the more I began to question its legitimacy.)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified power companies as one of its first targets for greenhouse gas emissions reporting because of their impact. But New Zealand already is boasting that it has a carbon neutral power company, which relies on wind and hydro power. So, what motivated Meridian to run ahead of the rest of us, who are using coal and emitting that nasty new pollutant ─ carbon dioxide? According to this website, the state-owned company was moved to action by possible penalties for not lowering its CO2 output.

We use penalties in the United States and they don't always get the job done, like the cases in which the violator doesn't have any money. But the answer most assuredly lies with the dispensation of money; perhaps, as a colleague suggested, the government should be paying us for good behavior (read: tax breaks) and give us a deadline. They do in some cases, but maybe not on the scale that is needed.

Could we institute tax breaks for walking and riding bicycles, ridesharing, using public transit, buying and eating only locally grown foods, and adjusting thermostats and energy use at home and at businesses and manufacturing facilities? I can imagine people wearing some kind of sensing device that would track our activities and measure the resulting emissions so we would get credits at the end of the year. Similar devices could be incorporated into smart building systems.

Would you change your behavior for a tax break? Do you think your employer would, too?

Posted by L.K. Williams, EPonline on Nov 22, 2010 at 12:43 PM


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