Saturday, April 11, 2009

Carbon Credits - or Farming in North Dakota

Courtesy of Anthony Watts I am posting this story from his Web Page (Watts Up With That) today, since it relates to the ongoing Carbon Credit discussion.

Simply put the National Farmers Union Carbon Credit Program sells the “credit” that farmers in, say North Dakota, create when they carry out various different farming practices that don’t generate as much carbon dioxide. For example if you practice “no-till” farming of corn and soybeans, then you don’t, obviously, use a tractor to till and thus don’t generate as much carbon dioxide. (By leaving the untilled soil and remaining material in the soil undisturbed so that it does not emit carbon dioxide, and methane and additional carbon dioxide are not emitted - coincidentally it is usually good farming practice since it reduces soil erosion and helps hold nutrients in the soil). Thus, for example, as Bloomberg points out, a farmer who does not till 800 acres can save 470 tons of carbon (dioxide). This then becomes a credit that can be sold, and is apparently currently worth about $3,000 a year.

Thus a site that generates a large quantity of carbon can buy these “offsets” from the farmers saving carbon, and set that against their own production. The North Dakota Farmers Union of some 3,900 members, apparently shared some $9 million last year, up from $2.6 million in 2007. However, if the farmers are doing this already, and for other reasons, that does not stop them selling the credit and taking the money. Except that Anthony gives the story of one farmer that has changed his mind. It is reproduced with his permission.

I have changed my mind about participating in the carbon credit program. And have resolved to give the money I received to St Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Here is why.

Recently I sat in the fire hall with a few dozen farmers. We had been invited to hear how we can get paid for carbon credits.
The speaker explained how their satellites can measure the carbon in our land individually and how much money we could get. Then asked for questions.

I asked “what is the source of this money”?

The presenter said it comes from big companies that pollute.

I asked “where do they get this money”? He had no answer.

So I answered for him, asking, “won’t it come from everyone who pays their power bill”? He then agreed and said “that could be”.

I then said isn’t this about the theory of man made global warming? he said “we are not going to talk about that”. Here they are on the prairie soliciting land for carbon credits tempting us with free money.

I believe that agreeing to take their money means you agree with taxing cattle gas also, because methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon. I believe taking this money without considering its source makes us no better than the bankers who lent money to people, knowing they could not pay it back. Collecting their fees then selling the bad loans in bundles to someone else. They did not care where the money came from either.

Let’s be clear.

Carbon is not a new commodity! No new wealth is being created here! Is this the way we want to make a living? Let me ask you, what if their satellites determine that your land has lost carbon? You will get a bill, not a check, right? If you make a tillage pass you will get a bill for emitting carbon, is this not correct?

It is also a fact that this income will, in short order, get built into your land cost. You will keep very little and be left with the burden of another bureaucratic program.

Let’s be honest, we feel compelled to take this money because of the need to be competitive, however we also need to hold true to our values and lead by example that means placing our principals ahead of money.

No good citizen is opposed to using the earth’s resources wisely, however, wisdom means a person who has both intelligence and humility. In my view many of the proponents of man made global warming have the first and lack the second. We are able to exercise our freedom in this country because we have abundant, reliable and affordable power. It is ironic that we sat in front of the flag in that fire hall and considered trading our liberty for money.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Roy Disney:

“Decision making becomes easier when your values are clear to you”


  1. I dislike the idea that farmers should become eligible for carbon credits for something they'd do anyway. It's like me being issued carbon credits when I trade a large vehicle for a more fuel-efficient one.

    I suppose the loss of perspective is inevitable when the banking community gets involved and hope this isn't the foretaste of the menu to be set under US cap-and-trade legislation.

  2. Somebody is obviously making money on this, else why set it up. But the question would be, at this time, who is buying the credit, if they don't need to?

    There was another meeting going on at the Convention Center in Washington at the same time as the EIA one, and it dealt with Carbon Credits - both Gail and I thought about going over to see what was going on, but never had time.

  3. There's lots of voluntary offsetting going on, ranging from federal agencies (EPA), municipalities (San Francisco), conferences, sporting events (Super Bowl), etc. So yes, there's money to be made and the usual suspects are leaping in. I think profit has the early lead over ethics in this game.