'Counterproductive' Offsets Ditched

Green flying schemes salve consciences, not environment
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 18, 2009 2:54 AM CST
An aircraft comes in to land at London's Heathrow Airport.   (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

(Newser) – Carbon offsets are becoming big business, but many emissions experts say green travel is too good to be true. Responsible Travel was one of the first travel firms to offer customers the chance to pay extra money to help offset emissions caused by their air miles. But it has now canceled the program, saying that while it may have eased passengers' consciences, it did little to reduce actual emissions and likely just encouraged people to fly more.

"The carbon offset has become this magic pill, a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card,” the firm's director told the New York Times. “It’s seductive to the consumer who says, ‘It’s $4 and I’m carbon-neutral, so I can fly all I want.'" Other critics of offset programs complain that the programs lack transparency over whether the carbon emissions are really being offset, something some experts estimate would cost over $200 per transatlantic flight.