Are we about to see a backlash over carbon credits?

Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

I am the worst kind of journalist in one very specific way: I believe the best of people unless shown that I should do otherwise. I really have to concentrate hard keeping my skepticism meter operating at full strength.

But there is one topic that has continued to perplex and irk me over my two years of cover green technology at the GreenTech Pastures blog, and that is the whole carbon credits marketplace.

I can't tell you how many press releases, proclamations and breathless PR pitches I have received about companies that have gone 100 PERCENT CARBON-NEUTRAL! only to find that the only way that said company has been able to get there is buying scads of carbon offsets to compensate for its electricity consumption. Don't get be wrong, I like the idea that your company is funding work on clean technology, or a solar installation, or a wind farm or some other renewable energy scheme. I like the carbon credit marketplace idea. But let's be real: By simply going out and throwing money at a carbon offset provider, you really say that your company is carbon-neutral? I think not.

So, I almost screamed with joy when Yahoo! announced late in June on one of its corporate blogs that it plans to stop buying carbon offsets for its operations and instead will put that money into real honest to goodness energy reduction projects within its data centers. Its goal is to reduce the "carbon intensity" of its data centers by a minimum of 40 percent between now and 2014. Especially when it comes to a company like Yahoo!, which literally makes its living off its data centers, this just seems like a much more reasonable approach. I hope that other enterprises follow its lead and get more serious about overhauling their existing data center facilities.

There is one thing that I worry about a bit: If fewer companies buy carbon credits, will this negatively impact funding for renewable energy sources? I hope not, but I fear so.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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