Can you offset your emissions with just $80? I’ll take the deal!


In a recent proposal, the New South Wales government will allow drivers to purchase $80 (US$55) worth of carbon credits to offset their emissions when they pay their car registration fees.

This is not a startling effort by Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean. He is one of many Australian leaders who have promoted “value-based capitalism” in recent years.

But it’s a posture that threatens an important public-private balance, and it’s all the more irritating when it’s being pushed by leading figures in right-wing parties.

However, this particular policy is harmless enough as long as it remains arbitrary. If individuals want to spend money to offset emissions based on “average car” usage, that’s good for them.

Two items are of particular interest. The first is the cost of offsetting vehicle emissions. According to the justification provided, offsetting the emissions of about $2,000 in gasoline consumption costs only $80, or only 4% of the fuel cost.

To put this another way, let’s say I bought an electric car and somehow powered it with 100% renewable electricity. To produce the same energy if powered solely by the sun would require all the energy from a solar system costing about $5,000.

You’ll save $2,000 a year in fuel costs, but you’ll have to pay back the higher cost of your car and other peripheral systems you need (such as batteries) so you can charge when you need it, not just when the sun comes up. there is. And you have to weigh the annoyance of being limited to where and how far you can drive.

I could do it all to eliminate emissions in transit…or… someone else pays for my exhaust pipe guilt for only $80 each year.

Renault Kangoo charging
A woman holds cables to charge her Renault Kangoo ZE electric commercial vehicle at a Renault car dealership in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, October 22, 2020. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

In fact, even if you could go completely off-grid with a solar electric vehicle solution, you wouldn’t be able to offset all of your car’s emissions. The production of solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles requires energy that must be repaid before it can be considered contributing to reducing emissions.

The cost gives the impression that net zero should be easy. Does global energy costs need to rise by just 4% to offset emissions?

However, this is far from a scalable reality.

Soon, all opportunities to grow new trees or bury carbon are taken away, greatly increasing the cost of carbon offsets.

The left thinks that’s not enough

A second interesting point is that the proposal received more opposition from the green left than from the right and conservatives.

The carbon credit system redistributes money. Through this voluntary payment, technologies that emit CO2 subsidize technologies that don’t (not new, anyway, this is already being done through various other government initiatives).

But from the perspective of climate activists, this is not enough. Do payments make a big difference? Almost certainly not.

Many on the green left worry that this kind of initiative will discourage emissions reductions. Carbon offsets include avoidance offsets as well as sequestration offsets, but they don’t actually pull carbon back from the atmosphere, they just provide a way for people to trade virtue.

It is not an initiative that can drive the kind of energy transition the Green Left dreams of. But it is precisely the initiative that is voluntary today and obligatory tomorrow. When that happens, neither side of politics will ever be satisfied.

Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Epoch Times.