a gift for the enivronmentalist who has everything? Think
The nonprofit Adirondack Council is offering a unique and
“green” gift-giving solution this holiday season, the opportunity
to keep tons of carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere.
The eco-conscious shopper can now purchase certificates guaranteeing
the reduction of enough carbon dioxide to cancel out the environmental
cost of driving a car for six months ($25) or even eliminate
the carbon footprint of a friend or loved one for one year
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the first federally
mandated carbon-dioxide control program, requires companies
producing carbon emissions in 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic
states to bid on allowances for every ton of carbon they release.
These allowances can be traded among companies once purchased,
but no more will become available. This is the essence of
a cap-and-trade system. Each year, the number of allowances
available is reduced, requiring companies to gradually reduce
their emissions in the region as a whole. Of the participating
states, New York has purchased far and away more allowances
than any other state; nearly double that of the second largest
purchaser, Maryland, and well over twice the emission allowances
for New Jersey in both 2009 and 2012.
Enter Adirondack Council.
realized that we could make the power companies clean up their
emissions even faster if we went to those auctions and started
bidding against them for allowances,” said executive director
Brian Houseal. “They tried to keep us out by setting the minimum
purchase at 1,000 allowances. So, we sought partners by asking
our members and the general public to help us, through the
Carbon Reduction Certificate program.”
The council is selling certificates for $25, tax-deductible.
That $25 purchases a certificate that explains “the significance
of real carbon dioxide emissions,” and contains serial numbers
correlating to 3 tons worth of allowances that have been retired.
Three tons of carbon dioxide, according to Houseal, is equal
to the cost of heating your home for one year or driving a
car for six months.
John Sheehan, director of communications at the Adirondack
Council, said that the beauty of the plan lies in the fact
that the money paid for emissions allowances goes to the Energy
Research and Development Authority and is reinvested in clean
energy and efficiency, rather than paid directly to companies
as an incentive to directly reduce pollution (a policy that
worked against the foundering European cap-and-trade experiment).
Another allure of the program is that the results are more
easily verified than those of carbon-offset programs, such
as planting trees.
are real, verifiable emissions reductions,” explained Houseal.
“Once we retire the allowance, it can never be used by anyone
to create pollution. It is the same thing as reducing the
regional pollution limits imposed on power plants, three tons
at a time.”
Allowances, according to Sheehan, “are like stocks or bonds.
They can be resold and have cash value.”
When an allowance is retired, it’s placed into a retirement
account with RGGI, and the Adirondack Council promises never
to resell it. There is only “our promise to the public and
our reputation” as a guarantee, admitted Sheehan, but pointed
out that that reputation is based on nearly 35 years of advocacy.
Contributions made to the Carbon Reduction Certificate program
go toward purchasing allowances, recouping costs and supporting
programs. One such program is the promotion of the expansion
of RGGI to the other 40 states.
would like to see a nationwide program adopted by Congress
based on this model,” said Sheehan, noting that some states
on the West Coast already have a similar program under way.
“We call this Reggie; maybe they’ll call that Weggie.”
In the first year of RGGI auctions, the Adirondack Council
bought 7,000 tons of emissions allowances, 1,000 of which
were retired a mere eight days before Christmas. According
to Sheehan, the council intends to purchase 3,000 allowances
at the Dec. 2 auction, and they hope to have most of them
retired by the end of the year. Of the 5,000 allowances purchased
this year, nearly 4,000 already have been retired.
As costs are recouped over the holidays, Sheehan hopes to
have 9,000 tons retired by the end of the year. The first
Carbon Reduction Certificate was purchased by U.S. Sen. Kirsten
Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) while she was still New York’s 20th Congressional
Certificates can be purchased at adirondackcouncil.org.
loose ends this week-