Carbon offsets—the credits gas-guzzling consumers buy to cancel out their carbon production—may do little or nothing more than assuage consciences, a Financial Times investigation concludes. Some companies sell worthless credits; others use them to finance environmental projects they had planned anyway. And consumers have no means to know when they're getting scammed.
Most of the schemes are legal, if unethical. Chemical giant DuPont, for instance, allows customers to offset one ton of its own CO2 production for $4—less than it costs the company. “The police, the fraud squad and trading standards need to be looking into this," an HSBC adviser says of the multibillion-dollar industry.