More on Carbon Negativity: Carbon Harmony / by Jason

Somehow, I missed Sarah's posts on Carbon Negativity and "Double Carbon Neutrality." I've been meaning to post for a while now about an outfit called Carbon Harmony that is marketing itself as carbon negativity for the music industry. Carbon Harmony landed the contract to offset the Sasquatch Music Festival to 110% of the festival's emissions, which I wrote about briefly on my blog about green festivals. The company also claims to have offset 150% of its own CO2.

I'm reminded of the following scene (sadly unavailable on YouTube) in There's Something About Mary (courtesy of IMDB):
Hitchhiker: You heard of this thing, the 8-Minute Abs?
Ted: Yeah, sure, 8-Minute Abs. Yeah, the excercise video.
Hitchhiker: Yeah, this is going to blow that right out of the water. Listen to this: 7... Minute... Abs.
Ted: Right. Yes. OK, all right. I see where you're going.
Hitchhiker: Think about it. You walk into a video store, you see 8-Minute Abs sittin' there, there's 7-Minute Abs right beside it. Which one are you gonna pick, man?
Ted: I would go for the 7.
Hitchhiker: Bingo, man, bingo. 7-Minute Abs. And we guarantee just as good a workout as the 8-minute folk.
Ted: You guarantee it? That's - how do you do that?
Hitchhiker: If you're not happy with the first 7 minutes, we're gonna send you the extra minute free. You see? That's it. That's our motto. That's where we're comin' from. That's from "A" to "B".
Ted: That's right. That's - that's good. That's good. Unless, of course, somebody comes up with 6-Minute Abs. Then you're in trouble, huh?
[Hitchhiker convulses]
Hitchhiker: No! No, no, not 6! I said 7. Nobody's comin' up with 6. Who works out in 6 minutes? You won't even get your heart goin, not even a mouse on a wheel.
Ted: That - good point.
Hitchhiker: 7's the key number here. Think about it. 7-Elevens. 7 doors. 7, man, that's the number. 7 chipmunks twirlin' on a branch, eatin' lots of sunflowers on my uncle's ranch. You know that old children's tale from the sea. It's like you're dreamin' about Gorgonzola cheese when it's clearly Brie time, baby. Step into my office.
Ted: Why?
Hitchhiker: 'Cause you're f***in' fired!
Carbon Harmony and Fiji water are making some big claims, but at the end of the day we need to keep a couple of things in mind. First, there are different levels of offsets, and Carbon Harmony is merely buying RECs from the CCX (explained in my interview with Native Energy), not creating new alternative energy projects or going out and planting trees. In other words, the company acts as a financial middleman, helping clients assuage their guilt.

Second, to borrow from Cradle to Cradle, doing less bad is not the same as doing good. That's one of several reasons why I don't like offsets. It's hard for me to get excited about a company like Carbon Harmony that's out there one-upping the competition when they're not really getting to the root of the problem, which is that events like Sasquatch and companies like Fiji, no matter how well-meaning the people behind them are, are still running on fossil fuels in an unsustainable way. Going to "carbon negativity" doesn't change that. For-profit companies will respond best to market forces, which is why we need to get past voluntary--and expensive--offsetting and start making it more costly to burn fossil fuels for energy than it is to run on renewable resources. Everything else is just a shell game.