Carbon credits: indulgence or commutation fee?
The ability of wealthy individuals like Al Gore to purchase what amounts to rights to pollute by buying carbon credits is a repulsive moral dodge, demanding us to consider useful analogies. One comparison that has occurred to many is the sale of Papal Indulgences that so infuriated Martin Luther. Taxprof picked up on this analgy in commenting on the "get out of jail free" card for pollution guilt that was part of the gift bag given to all Academy Awards presenters.
This year's Oscar goodie bag contained gift certificates representing 100,000 pounds of greenhouse gas reductions from TerraPass, which describes itself as a "carbon offset retailer." The 100,000 pounds "are enough to balance out an average year in the life of an Academy Award presenter," a press release from TerraPass asserts. "For example, 100,000 pounds is the total amount of carbon dioxide created by 20,000 miles of driving, 40,000 miles on commercial airlines, 20 hours in a private jet and a large house in Los Angeles. The greenhouse gas reductions will be accomplished through TerraPass' [program] of verified wind energy, cow power [collecting methane from manure] and efficiency projects." Voila, guilt-free consumption! It reminds us of the era when rich Catholics paid the church for "dispensations" that would shorten their terms in Purgatory." [hat tips: Instapundit, Clarice Feldman]