Thursday, February 14, 2008

I'll Proofread This When My Eyes Stop Bleeding

Who knows about TerraPass? I had heard of "carbon offsets" or "carbon credits" before, but had never encountered them before yesterday. That's when I came across the reality of this year and a half old announcement:
Big news, people: Expedia and TerraPass have partnered in a program to offer Flight TerraPasses to travelers when they buy plane tickets.

Although the travel industry has undertaken limited experiments with this kind of offering before, this is the first program of its size and scope to offer measured, verified greenhouse gas reductions to all travelers. Expedia will offer TerraPass to every U.S. traveler who buys a plane ticket through their web site.

This is an important development for the travel industry and for the fight against global warming. Air travel has exploded in popularity as the cost of plane tickets has dropped. But planes create a large and growing proportion of global warming pollution. For frequent flyers, plane travel creates more emissions than their cars.

Previously, there was not much travelers could do about their contribution to this problem. Now there is.

Whatever shall we do? Why, alleviate our guilt for destroying the earth by spending money, that's what. While purchasing tickets through Expedia, I saw that I could buy a "Flight TerraPass." Only $5.99 for 1,000 lbs of CO2! Or $29.99 for 5,000 lbs! And you get a "nifty co-branded decal" or "a magnificent co-branded luggage tag, made of durable, high-quality silicone." Basically, what you're doing (beyond buying a decal/luggage tag), is giving money to TerraPass to fund "carbon reduction projects."

Now I'm not one to want to destroy the earth at all costs. But I think a reality check is in order. If you want to contribute to "carbon reduction projects," including "clean energy," "farm power," and "landfill gas capture," go right ahead. But do you have to use a middle-man? I say use Google, find a local researcher/company doing something like this, contact them, and ask where you can send your check to help them out. The only benefit I see of buying a TerraPass is vanity, much like people who buy a Toyota Prius because "It makes a statement about me." The desire here isn't to help the environment, it's to be recognized as someone who helps the environment.

It's this kind of thinking that worries me about the upcoming presidential election. I worry that people will vote for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton so that they can tell their children/grandchildren someday that they voted for America's first black/woman president. I don't care if our next president is a purple hermaphrodite, as long as they aren't going to flush our country down the toilet. But I hope people will pay more attention to actual issues & experience/records, rather than so-called "identity-politics."

For instance, the National Taxpayers Union Foundation recently released a study "which provides cost estimates -- based on hard data -- for more than 450 of the major candidates’ proposals that would affect the federal budget." Some of the numbers may shock you. (Some might not.) Take a look at the net effect on federal spending of some of the candidates' proposals (for new/increased programs as well as cuts):
  • Barack Obama: $287 billion increase ($105 billion for "economy, transportation, and infrastructure")
  • Hillary Clinton: $218.2 billion increase ($113.6 billion for health care)
  • John McCain: $6.9 billion increase
  • Mike Huckabee: $54.2 billion increase ($50.1 billion increase in military spending)
  • Mitt Romney: $19.5 billion increase ($40 billion increase in military spending)
  • Rudy Giuliani: $1.4 billion decrease
  • Ron Paul: $150.1 billion decrease
Now putting aside Paul's number, since he basically wants to cut all government spending (which isn't all bad), I'd like to see Giuliani's proposals. He seems to get it more than the others. What people need to remember is that the government doesn't really have any money - we pay for their programs as taxpayers. Check out the data from the report here.

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