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Old 05-27-2007, 03:23 AM   #1
BailOut
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Carbon offsetting with TerraPass

I have been asked by a few folks to write about TerraPass, which is a carbon offset service I subscribe to. I delayed in writing this because carbon offsets can be a controversial topic with a lot of finger wagglers on either side, and in that scenario it is nigh impossible to have a meaningful debate or let real information flow. Despite this possibility I feel this topic is important enough to warrant a round of discussion here.


Why should I care about the CO2 that comes out of my tailpipe?

Even if you do not believe in the correlation between airborne carbon and the threat of global warming there are not many of us that have not seen, smelled, breathed or drank smog. Smog is mostly carbon dioxide from vehicle and industrial emissions and contributes to many of the ills of modern humanity such as asthma, upper respiratory infections, localized surface water pollution, etc., and they also contribute to localized weather like inversion layers, hot spots, etc.


What is a carbon offset?

It is an intangible unit of carbon measurement that you trade for or purchase which grants you the "right" to produce a given amount of carbon because the same - or greater - amount of carbon is being saved somewhere else.


Can you give me an example?

Let's say a utility company in Timbuktu wants to replace an aging coal-burning electricity plant with a new solar array which will save 1 billion pounds of CO2 output per year. Now let's say I use 300 gallons of gasoline in a year, at 20 pounds of CO2 per gallon. I can purchase a few "carbon credits" from that utility in Timbuktu that let me add carbon to the atmosphere because they aren't going to be. The utility in turn uses the money I paid for the carbon credits to help finance the deployment the new solar array.


How are we ever going to be carbon emission free if everyone just trades the stuff?

A carbonless existence is not possible. Even our bodies expel CO2 as a byproduct of breathing. The goal of carbon offsets is carbon neutrality.


Did you just say 20 pounds of carbon from a 6.3 pound gallon of gasoline?

Yes I did, and here's how that works (from http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/co2.shtml): A carbon atom has a weight of 12, and each oxygen atom has a weight of 16, giving each single molecule of CO2 an atomic weight of 44 (12 from carbon and 32 from oxygen). Therefore, to calculate the amount of CO2 produced from a gallon of gasoline the weight of the carbon in the gasoline is multiplied by 44/12, or 3.7. Since gasoline is about 87% carbon and 13% hydrogen by weight, the carbon in a gallon of gasoline weighs 5.5 pounds (6.3 lbs. x .87). We can then multiply the weight of the carbon (5.5 pounds) by 3.7, which equals 20 pounds of CO2.

But if I can just buy offsets for all of my carbon emissions, then why should I worry about reducing my carbon footprint?

Here lies the first point of debate. Yes, carbon offsets can be abused by "buying your way out of responsibility", but this is not what they are intended for and this is not how anyone I know has used them. The idea is to first reduce your carbon footprint as much as you can, then offset what remains (after all, carbon neutrality at today's carbon output levels would not help things one little bit). For example, I hypermile my Yaris so that I get the best possible fuel efficiency (FE) out of it. This means that between my vehicle type and my driving style I have greatly reduced my carbon footprint. However, at the end of the day I still burn gasoline in my engine, and while I am burning much less of it than I used to I am still emiting carbon dioxide from my tailpipe every second the engine is running. I cannot stop that from happening today so I choose to offset the remaining carbon emissions.


If I'm going to do this, how do I know how much I need to offset?

TerraPass offers a calculator.


Of all of the carbon offsetters and exchanges, why choose TerraPass?

And here's the second point of debate. Truth be told I don't care which offsetter you choose. I'd just be happy that you are becoming more environmentally aware and proactive. I chose TerraPass because they are continually audited by not one but two independent third parties and I like their selection of projects, namely the wind energy and industrial efficiency efforts. I'm not sure I agree with their support of flaring methane from landfills rather than capturing it for electricity generation, but at least the flared methane - which is much stronger than CO2 as a GHG (greenohouse gas) - can no longer find its way into the atmosphere.
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Last edited by BailOut; 05-28-2007 at 12:31 AM.
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Old 05-27-2007, 03:52 AM   #2
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Let's just say that there is a certain level of carbon currently in the environment. I don't think it's possible to neutralize that level because as you just said "our bodies expel CO2". The entire world's population would have to balance itself out immediatly and all people of the world start making a trade off for something like this to work.

Quote:
The rate of Earth's population growth is slowing down. Throughout the 1960s, the world's population was growing at a rate of about 2% per year. By 1990, that rate was down to 1.5%, and by the year 2015, it's expected to drop to 1%....By 2015, despite a low expected 1% growth rate, experts estimate there will be 7 billion people on the planet. By 2050, there may be as many as 10 billion people living on Earth...
link

Even though there are websites that say the amounts of CO2 humans produce via respiration are "relatively insignificant" the fact can't be ignored that it doesn't exist. It also can't be ignored that all of those people are going to produce more CO2 than by just breathing.

Looking at the big picture, I believe that more should be done to utilize the CO2 by planting something green like starting a garden than sending a company money for them to disperse however they see fit. I also find it quite arrogant of humans to think that they can actually destroy the planet. The earth is capable to handling itself when need be.
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Old 05-27-2007, 03:15 PM   #3
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I also find it quite arrogant of humans to think that they can actually destroy the planet. The earth is capable to handling itself when need be.
i agree, the term "save the planet" should really be "save the humans"
we cant' do anything to destroy the planet, it will be here long after we are gone.
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Old 05-27-2007, 03:30 PM   #4
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i agree, the term "save the planet" should really be "save the humans"
we cant' do anything to destroy the planet, it will be here long after we are gone.
sounds about right.

I'm sure enough nuclear/atomic firepower in choice locations would tear it apart though... but someone would realllllly have to try.

Remember how old the earth is, we are an insignificant dot on earths timeline... if all of humanity wipes itself out, something else will take our place. IMO, if drastic things happen, humans will accept a different form of life and keep on chuggin... it would take quite a bit to wipe all of us out, but at the same time, quite a bit in a cosmic sense isn't even a whisper.

I toy with the idea of infinity, life itself, the makeup of the universe... etc etc... fun topic but it can be pretty mind bending... because it always comes back to WHY????

I'll not bend my mind/this topic any further, thats an OT type of thing

Getting back on topic, this not only seems moot, it seems to just buy into (no pun intended) the idea that you can buy your way out of anything... do the logistics of it *really* make sense?
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Old 05-27-2007, 03:34 PM   #5
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what would be the terra pass rating of this VW bug?

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Old 05-27-2007, 03:46 PM   #6
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For me, "saving the planet" really means saving the human habitat. I'm selfish like that.

Yes, the planet will likely be here long after we are gone, but we certainly have the ability to make its atmosphere and surface so unlivable for ourselves and other forms of life that we become our own reason for decimation in the short term, even possible extinction in the long term.

To me, offsetting is one small but helpful step in a long process of ecological footprint reduction, both at the personal level and the industrial level.

Let's also not forget the the one excuse the U.S. government made for not signing on to the Kyoto Protocol was because it lacked the allowance for carbon debt trading. They skipped out on a multinational, multi-generational carbon reduction system for the lack of something that is readily available to any of us as private citizens.
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Old 05-27-2007, 03:51 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Black Yaris View Post
what would be the terra pass rating of this VW bug?

That's a GE T58 and I believew they burn 500pounds of fuel per hour so that will give you an idea
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Old 05-27-2007, 04:33 PM   #8
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For me, "saving the planet" really means saving the human habitat. I'm selfish like that.

Yes, the planet will likely be here long after we are gone, but we certainly have the ability to make its atmosphere and surface so unlivable for ourselves and other forms of life that we become our own reason for decimation in the short term, even possible extinction in the long term.

To me, offsetting is one small but helpful step in a long process of ecological footprint reduction, both at the personal level and the industrial level.

Let's also not forget the the one excuse the U.S. government made for not signing on to the Kyoto Protocol was because it lacked the allowance for carbon debt trading. They skipped out on a multinational, multi-generational carbon reduction system for the lack of something that is readily available to any of us as private citizens.
excellent points bailout, although i do think spkrman's criticism of us buying our way out of problems rings true as we really arent' reducing anything by buying carbon offsets.
we're still doing the damage.

rich countries being able to trade carbon emissions while not actually changing their way of doing things don't do anthing to reduce emissions worldwide.

i think for carbon offsets to be effective, they would have to be mandatory , so people would think twice about their carbon footprints when it hits them in the wallet, and this way a lot more funding would be going to wind power and other carbon neutral initiatives.
not many people are going to voluntarily pay 50 bucks a year to drive their car, just to sooth their conscience, i know i won't.
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Old 05-27-2007, 04:53 PM   #9
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Why? Well let's just say for the sake of this post....GOD. Evolution? If that were the real why, then why have we as humans stopped evolving? Climate, thinking, what, how about you are perfect from creation, by GOD, whether it is Budda, Jesus Christ my choice, or aliens.

WHY ASK WHY?

I agree Carbon credits are STUPID!!! Change the way you build, create, transport, etc....
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Old 05-27-2007, 05:00 PM   #10
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Why? Well let's just say for the sake of this post....GOD. Evolution? If that were the real why, then why have we as humans stopped evolving? Climate, thinking, what, how about you are perfect from creation, by GOD, whether it is Budda, Jesus Christ my choice, or aliens.
not following what you are saying here yari07, do you mind expanding this a bit?
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Old 05-27-2007, 06:31 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Yari07 View Post
Why? Well let's just say for the sake of this post....GOD. Evolution? If that were the real why, then why have we as humans stopped evolving? Climate, thinking, what, how about you are perfect from creation, by GOD, whether it is Budda, Jesus Christ my choice, or aliens.

WHY ASK WHY?

I agree Carbon credits are STUPID!!! Change the way you build, create, transport, etc....
I find it odd that you put god in the same line as jesus christ. One is "god", one is just some dude... whether or not you believe it... Jesus was as human as anyone who has lived and died. Aliens are more feasably god than a guy that lived and died a long time ago. In that case, we are all potentially god, and perhaps we ARE all god.... who knows.

But, your response prompted me to go ahead and post lots of jibberish here so this post doesnt get way OT:
http://www.yarisworld.com/forums/sho...0662#post90662
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Old 05-27-2007, 09:03 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Yari07 View Post
Why? Well let's just say for the sake of this post....GOD. Evolution? If that were the real why, then why have we as humans stopped evolving? Climate, thinking, what, how about you are perfect from creation, by GOD, whether it is Budda, Jesus Christ my choice, or aliens.

WHY ASK WHY?

I agree Carbon credits are STUPID!!! Change the way you build, create, transport, etc....
Humans have not stopped evolving, we are just evolving more slowly as we learn to control our environment to suit our wants. Try walking into an English pub from 1400-something. You WILL hit your head on the beams, because people were shorter then.
But, yes, carbon credits are stupid. :grin:

"I won't belittle your religion if you don't belittle my lack of one"
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Old 05-27-2007, 11:00 PM   #13
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I don't want to criticize, but the whole 19 pounds of CO2 per gallon of gasoline has me confused. You seem to have the terms Atomic weight (mass) and Atomic number confused. Carbonís atomic weight is NOT 6 (6 is Carbons atomic number), Carbons atomic mass is 12.01. The same applies to Oxygen. You say its weight is 8, but Oxygenís atomic mass is 15.99.

So, the Atomic weight of CO2 is 12.02 + 15.99 (2) = 44, NOT 20.1...
And why did you divide your atomic mass by 6 to get your increase factor (???) of 3.33?

Having a minor in Chemistry doesn't mean I know a whole lot, but your calculations just don't seem to add up. Can you be more specific because I seem to be missing something?
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Old 05-27-2007, 11:37 PM   #14
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Eco-Penance.

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Old 05-28-2007, 12:29 AM   #15
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PetersRedYaris,

Good catch! I was very tired and distracted when I wrote this up last night and made some mistakes. Even the original 19 pounds I Iisted was the old standard, which is now 20 pounds.

I originally divided by 6 to find the ratio of weight increase from a lone carbon atom to a CO2 molecule.

I have updated the original post to reflect 20 pounds of CO2 per gallon, and the text of the EPA's formula to reach it.
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