Many environmental groups say any offset must meet one all-important criterion, called “additionality”: Buying an offset must cause some new reduction in emissions that wouldn’t have happened if the money hadn’t been paid.
“If you don’t have additionality,” said Mark Trexler, a consultant in Portland, Ore., who advises companies on offset purchases, “you know what you’re getting. You’re getting nothing.”
A review of three projects that got about a third of the funds from the House’s offset purchases shows that, in all three cases, it did not appear that offset money was the sole factor causing any of the projects to go forward.
About $14,500 of the House’s money went to the North Dakota Farmers Union, some to pay farmers to do “no-till” farming. The farmers stopped using conventional plows and instead make tiny slits to plant their seeds. The practice increases the amount of carbon, a component in heat-trapping carbon dioxide, kept in the soil. But organizers said that some farmers had started the practice before the offset money came in because it saves fuel, brings in federal soil-conservation funds and could increase crop yields.
This revelation won’t stop Congress from pouring more of
its our money into the projects, however.
But (House chief administrative officer Daniel P.) Beard said he did not regret the purchase, despite questions about the role that offset money played in the individual projects.