Forests Saved by Pollution Problem

Private forest owners in California are making green — in both the environmental and financial senses — by reducing their carbon footprint, according to a San Francisco Chronicle story.

The Garcia River and Van Eck forests are selling carbon offsets to support environmentally friendly initiatives after a state- sponsored nonprofit granted them permission to do so.

Carbon offsets are voluntary payments to invest in renewable energy programs and counter greenhouse gas-producing activities — and unlike other offset programs, participating forest owners must abide by rigorous standards by promising to preserve the land for permanent forest use.

They must also verify the amount of carbon stored in the trees and to store more than they are legally required.

Garcia Rivers offsets their largest customer, utility company PG&E, who in turn charge their ratepayers up to $10 per metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions. Van Eck charges Green Mountain Energy customers almost $20 per ton.

Critics claim offsets are just a way to buy absolution for bad environmental habits without attempting to reform them.

They also deem offsets as high-risk investments because the forests are prone to wildfires and other acts of nature.

David Hale, a college president from Maine, told The Chronicle he rejected a similar offset for his school because a fire would release stored carbon into the atmosphere.

Laurie Wayburn, who manages Van Eck for the Pacific Forest Trust, told the paper that nuclear and wind power pose bigger risks.

“There are risks, but the risk profile is less than other technologies,” she said.

–T.J. Johnston/


“Forests break green ground by selling offsets”
San Francisco Chronicle, September 7, 2008

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