Do Carbon 'Offsets' Really Offset Anything?

Inconvenient Truth director says offsets have 'symbolic quality'
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 2, 2007 4:09 PM CDT
Tom Chaplin of British band Keane performs on stage during the British leg of the Live Earth concerts at London's Wembley Stadium, Saturday July 7, 2007. This concert is part of a series of events, also...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Everyone from Al Gore to Coldplay has jumped on the carbon offset bandwagon, but the Los Angeles Times reports that their payments don’t actually make the air any cleaner. Here's how they work: "Offset” companies invest in existing clean energy and win the right to sell “reductions” in their name. When greenies pay up, they're only buying emission-less energy that would have been running anyway.   

"If you really believe you're carbon neutral, you're kidding yourself," says one expert. Yet defenders claim that offsets are “a powerful first step.” Davis Guggenheim, director of An Inconvenient Truth – promoted as the first carbon-neutral documentary – explains, "All of us knew when you're doing offsets that the theoretical and symbolic quality to doing this is as important as the practical quality."