Rush Limbaugh has long compared aspects of the environmentalist movement to a religion. CNN’s Ali Velshi has given some evidence of that hypothesis. Friday’s "American Morning" featured a segment on carbon offset credits, which Velshi and cohost Kiran Chetry all but endorsed. At the beginning of the segment, Velshi stated that the credits were a way for companies to "basically buy their way out of their sins." At the segment’s close, he uses the exact same terminology - "It's the idea that you're paying or you're making up for your pollution and your sins." Video: Real (793 KB) or Windows (893 KB), plus MP3 (125 KB).
The historical practice that comes to mind from Velshi’s words is the abuse of selling indulgences in the medieval Catholic Church. This is the exact analogy prominent environmentalist, George Monbiot, used in an article critical of carbon offset credits. The segment featured a Pennsylvania dairy farmer who used his cows’ manure to produce methane, which is used to generate electricity. This is used as an example of "carbon-free, clean" businesses that other businesses can invest in, in order to obtain their carbon offset credits. Velshi names Ford, Intel, and Eastman Kodak as examples of corporations that are buying the carbon offset credits.
While the segment overwhelming sides with the practice, Velshi does briefly mention that some environmentalists are criticizing the credits as "green-washing." One unnamed critic compared the need to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions to dieting. He said, "You can't lose weight cheaply. It's going to be some pain in order to get bad behavior to become good behavior. This should be no different."
A full transcript of the segment from Friday’s "American Morning:"
CHETRY: Well, Earth Day is this weekend. Carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S., and which many scientists are blaming for the globbing warming, they've doubled since 1960." Ali Velshi 'Minding Your Business' with an idea that's downright dirty? I have to hear this one.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this is good. There's a very sophisticated market developing. The trade in something called carbon offset credits. It allows companies who pollute to basically buy their way out of their sins. Now, some people think it is a good idea. Others think it's a lot of bull.
VELSHI (voice over): This might not look like a clean energy project...
ALFRED WANNER, PENNSYLVANIA FARMER: We're probably generating about 5,000 gallons a day.
VELSHI: ...but Alfred Wanner's dairy farm is producing much more than this.
WANNER: They pump from here to the digester tank.
VELSHI: When the tank is heated up, the manure's byproduct, methane gas, gets converted into carbon-free, clean electricity - enough to power the farm and then some.
WANNER: If we can find people that are willing to partner with us, and pay us for doing that, it's a win-win situation for everybody.
VELSHI: It's a growing market. Individuals and corporations like Ford, Intel, and Eastman Kodak are buying what are called carbon offsets.
It's like a voucher. You invest in clean energy projects like the Wanner farm, or a wind farm, or a solar energy project, and you get credit that offsets your company's emissions. Some call that green-washing, a cheap fix that doesn't actually solve the underlying problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't lose weight cheaply. It's going to be some pain in order to get bad behavior to become good behavior. This should be no different.
VELSHI: About 15 states are headed towards some form of emission regulation. California will be the first. The proposed laws could create a system that allows companies to buy these carbon offsets if they can't cut back enough. Carbon credit traders are banking on it becoming a reality.
JOSH MARGOLIS, CANTOR CO2E: They're waiting for the uncertainty to be removed. Then you're going to have to pay a lot more if you're a buyer.
VELSHI: One carbon offset credit balances out about a metric ton of pollution. That's about a year's worth of emissions from 216,000 cars. Not bad for $4 a piece. That's the going rate for one carbon offset.
And so far, it's a good deal for Alfred Wanner. He's turning manure into a pile of cash.
WANNER: It's not lucrative, but about as good as it can be at this time. It's worth going after.
VELSHI: This is an idea in its infancy, but people are buying these carbon offset credits. And right now there are several bills in Congress, and across the nation in state legislatures, with plans for carbon credit trading. So, this could become a big deal. It's kind of like buying land where you think there's going to be development. Companies are getting into it.
CHETRY: And is it all similar to in some areas they try to do - if you cut down a tree, you plant a new one, and try to make up for it?
VELSHI: It's exactly the same idea. You can do it on an individual level or a corporate level. It's the idea that you're paying or you're making up for your pollution and your sins.
CHETRY: All right. Interesting concept.
VELSHI: Yes. Hope it grows.
CHETRY: Yes, exactly.