Uh-Oh! Government Motors Buys Carbon Offsets!

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In a move that almost seems calculated to enrage the Right with its Fox- and Rush-driven rage against the Volt, Chevy has announced it will voluntarily buy “8 million tonnes” worth of carbon offsets for $40 million to help it meet “voluntary emission reduction goals” within five years.

Even the spelling in the announcement is sissified. These are not even American tons! (Actually – I quoted European “tonnes” because the news came from the Norwegian-based Point Carbon, that covers carbon trading news from the European Commission’s European Trading Scheme (ETS), its cap & trade program.)

So, the money will just go to fatten Al Gore / big gummint wallets, right?

No, actually, the money generated by the sale of the carbon credits will go directly to buy clean energy. (That is how carbon credits in cap & trade plans work; polluters pay for the switch to cleaner energy so you don’t have to. Chevy is volunteering here, but under a cap & trade plan they would have to buy carbon credits to offset their SUV emissions.)

Chevy’s $40 million goes to North Dakota’s Basin Electric Power Cooperative, to help it buy power from four clean energy projects over the next ten years; that capture waste heat from gas pipelines to convert to energy, and bring wind power to the grid.

Basin Electric has a power purchase contract to buy base-load capacity fueled by waste heat recovered from the exhaust of gas turbines at four compressor stations located along the pipeline in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana.

Ormat waste heat recovery units at the compressor stations amount to 44 MW – generating enough electricity for 15,000 families a year. Chevy will help Basin Electric pay for the power from two of these, one in Culbertson, Montana, and one in Garvin, Minnesota.

Although the waste heat recovery units are piggybacked onto a dirty fuel inside the pipeline (gas) the waste heat recovery unit itself generates a zero emissions energy source, so it qualifies for carbon credits.

The other two projects that the Chevy money (aka “carbon indulgences”) will buy clean power from are more straightforwardly understood as renewable: two wind farms, one a 108 turbine wind farm that Basin Electric co-owns with 600 rural landowners in South Dakota, and a 77 turbine wind farm in North Dakota that was the first project of that size to be owned by a rural coop when it was built.

The projects will generate as many as 7.8 million carbon credits. These are carefully checked by Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), to ensure that carbon credits pay for projects that actually do reduce carbon emissions. VCS is a widely-used offset authenticator for the voluntary carbon market.

Each carbon credit represents one tonne of carbon reduced.

But sadly, Government Motors hardly needs to make Rush Limbaugh’s ditto heads any madder. Clearly, sales of the groundbreaking electric Volt are already impacted by an irrational rage against GM because of ties with the “wrong” administration in a nation now driven close to civil war.

Image: NASA. The EIA calculates that one third of North Dakota gas is flared, which is why the Bakken shale looks like a gigantic city seen from space.

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