Daily Archives: January 9, 2008

FTC considers regulating carbon offset claims

What constitutes a “real” carbon offset is so broad a question that I’m not convinced the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is capable of setting meaningful rules that would cover all circumstances, particularly since it’s inherent in the concept that it’ll evolve constantly and quickly. But the FTC considering giving it a shot, according to the New York Times:

The F.T.C. has not updated its environmental advertising guidelines, known as the Green Guides, since 1998. Back then, the agency did not create definitions for phrases that are common now — like renewable energy, carbon offsets and sustainability.

For now, it is soliciting comments on how to update its guidelines and is gathering information about how carbon-offset programs work…

The F.T.C. has not accused anyone of wrongdoing — neither the providers of carbon offsets nor the consumer brands that sell them. But environmentalists say — and the F.T.C.’s hearings suggest — that it is only a matter of time until the market faces greater scrutiny from the government or environmental organizations.

Environmental organizations have been scrutinizing the market closely, pointing out greenwashers, and developing their own standards for a long time. There’s big money directly involved here, and often big companies are paying it — they damn well want to know that their money is being well spent.

Not that government doesn’t have a role to play if people are outright lying and defrauding customers, but let’s not pretend the FTC is the first group of people to check into the question.

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A tax “even the Right might like”

The Ottawa Citizen‘s response to the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy’s call for a price — some kind of price — for carbon:

There is a worse economic sin than overregulation, the NRTEE says, echoing warnings from the business community, and that is capricious regulation. Given warning, industry can adapt to just about anything; it’s shocks that are scary. When governments set long-range targets without setting rules that will get the country to them, investors get nervous.

Less pain now almost certainly means much more pain later. Yet the Harper government seems to focus entirely on short-term costs instead of long-term benefits when contemplating environmental economics. This is doing Canada no service.