Your Czar normally detests the Chicago Tribue as a dessicated synopsis rag masquerading as a once great paper, but a front page article caught his eye on Sunday about Chicago. Specifically, it was a discussion of whether the City of Chicago, Inc., (urbs in whorto) is making good on its pro-environmental stance.
The Mayors office prides itself on making Chicago the greenest city in the world, to the extent that official representatives from other cities have visited Chicago on learning how the miracle may be repeated. Certainly, anyone who works in commercial construction within Chicago would be inclined to believe the claim, with the miles of green code requirements and LEED stipulations to put in low energy components, reduce waste, and seek alternative designs favoring natural light often at enormous cost to the project. The plethora of grass-and-tree-lined rooftops downtown certainly fosters this belief.
In a move to attract positive attention for his white-whale obsession with the 2016 Olympics, Mayor Daley made a series of public promises in 2006 to green the city above and beyond what he has already done. For example, to combat the Citys apparently sizeable contribution to global warming, the Mayor assured that the City would purchase no less than 20 percent of its electricity from wind power and geothermal sources.
However, efforts to improve the Citys efforts have not been as promising; in fact, they have backslid about as badly as the evidence for global warming.
In order to offset this lack of progress, The City began buying carbon credits in 2007, allegedly enough to eliminate 35,000 tons of carbon dioxide. The Czar is bemused by this, because a metric ton of any gas is a challenge to measure. Think of it as a metric ton of frozen carbon dioxide, which would be a helluva fun party to attend.
But what is a carbon credit, and why would the City want to buy one, let alone 35,000 worth?
For this, we have to go back to 1992. Remember that goofy thing from that year that seemed to be reasonable at the time but wound up being bad for business? The Czar hears some of you shouting things like Healthcare reform, Clintonian foreign policy, and The Maastricht Treaty, all of which are great answers (especially the last one), but the correct answer should have been The Kyoto Protocol,
Yes, the Czar knows that this was proven to be an unfeasible feel-good piece of non-science nonsense, but the hippies who became boomers really like it, and insist we use as much of it as possible, even if it jams a stick into the spokes of real environmental reform. Okay, part of that Protocol involved the use of carbon credits.
The theory is that only so much CO2 can be released into the air each year, as determined by a group you did not elect who has no scientific or business recognition. Like shares of stock, you can buy credits to help release the gas. One credit is worth one ton of frozen carbon dioxide. If you eliminate a ton of carbon dioxideby planting trees, burping soda, or one would assume freezing it, you are given a carbon credit by this same group you neither elected nor recognize as a scientific or business organization. If you produce a ton of carbon dioxide (as all living things do eventually), you need to purchase a carbon credit for whatever the market price is at that moment. That price is also determined by the same group you know little about.
Fortunately, to make things easier for you, you can use carbon brokers, who will buy your earned credits if you remove and sell you others back if you produce. Buying and selling. Like stocks. In fact, thats part of the whole idea: companies who neither remove nor produce carbon dioxide are welcome to buy and sell credits to make profits off them. This is critical, because the more companies buy credits, the more the value inflates. Eventually, the price to produce carbon dioxide (identical to the price of purchasing credits) becomes so high that it becomes cheaper for you to stop production and switch to greener alternatives.
Evidently, some folks believe that this is how life works: if the price of carbon credits goes up, production eventually stops. Think about that: if the carbon credit concept is structured to treat CO2 like a precious stock commodity, how does that work? That is of course the same as saying Lets keep buying and selling stocks until the market goes up so high that eventually we stop producing profitable stock! Believe it or not, a lot of the same people who favor the Kyoto Protocol would be all right with that type of collapse of capitalism.
Now, if you buy a carbon credit, the money supposedly goes to anyone who is being green, remember. Tree planters in theory, but in reality it usually goes to alternative energy producers: startups getting going in wind, solar, and geothermal. And something called biomass. We will come to that in a bit.
But back to Chicago. Mayor Daley, who must remind us he is still a loyal Kyoto Democrat, sought to fix the lack of environmental progress by buying 35,000 carbon credits to the tune of $294,049. And 97% of that carbon credit money goes to biomass producers, with the rest distributed among other technologies.
So what is biomass? In the Citys case, 87 percent of those carbon credits purchased by the City goes to a single wood-waste burning power plant in North Carolina. Why? Wood waste is considered a renewable energy: it qualifies, with a little work, as a biomass facility; however, one of the purposes of carbon credits is to assist in the opening of new, greener power generation facilities, whereas the wood-waste burning plant has been turning a profit since it opened in 1990, long before carbon credits.
And is there value to using an existing facility, rather than investing in a new greener one? Heck, yeah: the wood-burning plant produces a lot of electricity; the alternative, new plants could never power a monster-city like Chicago. And the environmental value of investing in an established
facility? One expert cited in the Trib article laughed it off as wildly theoretical, since burning wood and calling it biomass is hardly green, compared to real profit/loss analysis of a startup wind facility.
For the record, in 2008, only 1% of the Citys electricity was offset by carbon credits. The rest? Well, non-green, dirty brown power.
As Loyola University Chicago history professor Harold Platt said,
Not surprising, as this is par for the course with credits: the Chicago as greenest city claim is a total public relations fraud.
No surprise here. Even the slightest serious investigation reveals that the concept of carbon credits is itself a farce, ranging from carbon credits handed out to those who do nothing to reduce CO2 emissions to rip-offs by brokers, to the whole Who Are These Guys Anyway? question about the authorities handing out the credits and assessing the market values.
Why is the City of Chicago buying into the credits scam rather than implementing real environmental changes? Because Mayor Daley is not an idiot. He knows full well that the Kyoto Protocol, and its regulations and limitations and assessments, is disastrous to the business engine that drives his city and keeps him employed. The more you try to enforce good environmental practices, the worse it becomes. The more you leave it alone, the better it thrives. But the Democratic party, aging hippies for the most part, luv them their Al Gore and his green eggs and ham philosophies (especially seeing as how much he profited from carbon credits in particular), and Daley will play along. To the public, he avows that he will make Chicago obey the Kyoto Protocol, while behind closed doors, he runs as far as he can from it.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.