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As carbon market grows, law firms cash in

Boston Business Journal – May 16, 2008

In my opinion, this is wrong in so many ways that I can barely count all of the problems! As my frequent readers know, I rant against carbon trading schemes all the time, so much so that my fingers are starting to be bruised. I have yet to see one that makes sense to me and this story typifies many of the problems. (If you want to stay up to speed on all of my thoughts on this subject, subscribe to the feed for this site).

First, why does an existing stand of trees have the right to make money off selling their carbon sequestering power? By using this standard, my yard sequesters carbon, can I sell credits for this? The farmer down the road sequesters a lot of carbon, can he sell credits? A few miles from me, there is sand and gravel plant and many of its old pits are now filled with water, can they sell credits on their ponds? There have been some that even think that it may be MORE economical for forest owners to cut down their forests and replant them to get more credits!

Second, isn’t it counterproductive to have the owners of trees sell credits to power plants? So if a dirty power plant wants to keep pumping out carbon dioxide, they can just pay off a couple of forests. Also, this forest isn’t stagnant, according to their website and their Initial Leakage Assessment this is a working forest with active lumber operations. After the tree grows and absorbs its carbon, it is cut down, shipped to another part of the country, used in construction (or made into pallets) where EVENTUALLY it will be allowed to burn or put into a landfill. When it reaches this last resting spot, the carbon will be released to the atmosphere. So this isn’t true sequestering but short-term carbon storage.

Third, this stand is located in the West. The prevailing wind in the US is West to East. All of the carbon that this forest is absorbing came across the Pacific Ocean but the likely customer of its credits will be in the East. How does this help the situation? Plans that allow this are just plain wrong.

Fourth, this whole article is about lawyers making money. Doesn’t it seem really bad that lawyers are making money off laws that will be written and passed by lawyers?

In order for carbon schemes to have any hope of being effective, there needs to be different classes of trading. Power plants should only be able to trade with power plants, heavy manufacturers with their kin, and electronic manufacturers with their like industry members. We could even make classes for forests and farms so they can trade credits with each other if they wanted.

…law firm Sullivan & Worcester LLP recently helped the Van Eck Forest Project in northern California — where 2,200 acres of redwood trees will absorb 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 100 years — register those 500,000 tons of CO2 as carbon offset credits, the first ever in the state of California. The forest project administrators can, in turn, sell those credits.


“It was like found money,” said John Graham


Law firms are among some of the local companies that are betting that the carbon credit market will be one of the most important and complicated business issues in the coming years, with many firms either setting up dedicated practice groups or cultivating experts on the subject.


…the promise of profits is also attracting businesses to the carbon trade market, which has been doubling in size every year. The global carbon market doubled to $64 billion in 2007, according to the World Bank’s carbon finance report.


“At somewhere around $2.50 a ton, that’s a lot of money within our little area of our power plants,” said Ruth H. Silman, a partner in the environmental practice at Boston-based Nixon Peabody LLP.


“The excitement of that is — it could be worth a trillion dollars in a few years,” said Mark Williams, professor of finance and economics at Boston University

This is absolutely terrible!! Read the entire article here.

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2 Responses to “As carbon market grows, law firms cash in”

  1. I have trees and bushes, grass, even weeds in my yard. Why shouldn’t someone pay me for that? Where do I cash in?

  2. You’re right… carbon credits appear to be another money-making shell game. But I wonder how much money we could make selling carbon credits for our 160-acre nature preserve? (www.littlewolf.org)

    You can tell what a scam this is because a Google search turns up hundreds of places to BUY credits, but I can’t seem to find anyplace to SELL credits.