(D)emocracy: Your Chance to Chime-in on Carbon Offset Projects

space_diana_noaa1.jpgLast month, the Federal Trade Commission conducted hearings and convened a workshop for scientists, economists, environmental activists and representatives of the leading American retailers of ‘carbon offsets’ and ‘renewable energy credits’ (RECs) to learn more about the rather opaque business models and practices of some companies.

Though the hearings were only exploratory in nature, the FTC was able to address some of the concerns and misgivings the public has about unregulated voluntary carbon markets. The FTC also raised their concern about the validity of some companies’ advertising claims (for an excellent analysis of the carbon-offset hearings, read the piece by Jeremy Elton Jacquot for TreeHugger). In short, people want to see what they get and get what they pay for – and in the world of renewable energy credits and carbon offsets, this can be a tricky prospect.

In response to these hearings, and in an effort to legitimize the fledgling offset and REC industries, carbon offset retailer TerraPass has decided to democratize. By opening up a comment period for seven particular carbon-offset projects, TerraPass has decided to build-in an added layer of transparency to make their enterprise a little less hazy. I applaud TerraPass for this move forward. And I am totally fine if it is purely profit driven.

As companies strive to stay in the black of their ‘triple bottom line’ I hope we will be seeing more of these democratic experiments in the private sector. You don’t have to be a ‘stockholder’ to make a comment, just a stakeholder. And when we’re talking climate change, it seems that everyone is a stakeholder. According to the company:


“We welcome comments from our customers, from anyone familiar with the projects themselves, from policy experts, and from the general public.

If you have any feedback for us regarding these projects – their environmental records, the importance of TerraPass support to project success, or anything else, please provide it via email.”

Photo Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency

4 thoughts on “(D)emocracy: Your Chance to Chime-in on Carbon Offset Projects”

  1. I have never been able to understand why the world doesn’t take advantage of geothermal energy. The land we live on is just a pie crust above a vast core of extremely hot material. Where’s the problem in extracting some of that energy? Burning carbon-rich materials instead seems crazy.

  2. Adam,

    Thanks for the point clarification, and it is an important one. Last Spring, as I was doing some research on RECs, I saw that TerraPass was open to comments and that is part of the reason I supported you all. So, tell me if I’ve got this straight, the difference between what you are doing now and what you were doing before is that people have a chance to comment on the development of new projects before you have committed to them?

  3. Hi Timothy,

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. One small clarification — TerraPass instituted the policy of submitting projects for public comment about nine months ago, long before the recent FTC hearings. The policy is only being applied for the first time now as we build up our project pipeline for 2008, but it’s been in effect for a while.

    We welcome the FTC’s efforts to improve consumer protection standards in the carbon offset industry (in fact, we requested their involvement prior to the current round of hearings), but in general our own internal quality standards are well ahead of any anticipated regulatory efforts, and we intend to continue innovating on this front.


    Adam Stein
    Co-founder, TerraPass

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