Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Step Right Up and Throw Away Your Money!

I guess I'm a little slow. If I were a little faster on the uptake, perhaps I would have thought of this brilliant idea which totally exploits the adage "A fool and his money are soon parted."

At San Francisco International Airport (known for some reason as SFO. Why the "O"? Is it supposed to represent the globe since its the International Airport?) they have installed kiosks that will allow those who so choose to free themselves of the guilt that they carry around by flying around. Wait. What? Guilt? Whatkinda guilt?

The kinda guilt that you have when you fly because you're contributing to global warming by leaving carbon footprint! You know! That kind! Don't you feel guilty when you fly? (NO! But go on!) Well, pack your bags, 'cause you're going on a guilt trip!

Here's the theory: If you fly, you contribute to global warming by getting on that plane. God forbid that you do anything differently (such as not fly), so in order to make yourself feel good (no clue as to whether or not it actually does anything to help the environment) what you're supposed to want to do is to give money, someone and then you're supposed to trust (yes, trust) that they're going to use the money, do something that will help the environment.

In case that was too complicated, let me simplify: There is a machine that takes people's money that they willing put into it and they get nothing in return other than a warm and fuzzy feeling that they've created in their own mind. Is this a great country or what?!

So what's the average cost of being a fool and needing to part with some money? Let's find out, shall we? Of course there is a carbon footprint calculator at the kiosks for you to use. And if you're not at the kiosks (but want to get some sort of an idea as to how far you have to fly in order to lose X-amount of money should you choose to contribute to this project with absolutely no guarantee that your money will be spent for anything useful at all) you can use the handy calculator online to figure out how big of a sap you are how much it will cost you.

For instance, it says that if we take a long flight of 6,000 miles (round trip) that is allegedly using or burning or making 5,608 pounds of CO2 (aka carbon dioxide) that is equal to 2.543 tons and at $13.50 per ton our guilt can be absolved for a mere $34.34. I wonder what it would take to absolve their guilt? Oh, that's right. They likely have none.

Here's my first (but not my last) problem with this: The figure that they're using for a "ton" is 2204.6 pounds. That is not a ton. 2000 pounds is a ton in the US. 2204.6 is a metric ton. Metric? Since when does the US operate on the metric ton principle? I don't think we do! Oh, wait. Is it that damn "International Airport" designation again?! No, I'm guessing that it's that a metric ton is 204.6 pounds more than a US ton (or short ton) and that benefits them considerably. I noticed that we're not calculating the flight length in kilometers, why is that? Because they don't want to, that is correct.

They don't seem to give any sort of formula as to how they have calculated the amount of CO2 which they are claiming per flight. OK, they give a formula as to how to calculate how much money you can give them, no questions asked. But they don't give you a formula as to what was taken into consideration when determining the CO2 amount. How many people were on this plane? What kind of a plane was it? What direction was it flying? Was there a headwind? A tailwind? A side wind? (Is there a side wind? God, I hope not.) Does the plane use the same amount of fuel regardless as to the number of passengers? Do they take the size of the crew into consideration? (I mean how many crew members there are, not if they need to butter their sides to squeeze themselves down the aisle or not.) Shouldn't flights with more people on them cost you less money to throw away than flights with less people on them? Because with a whole boatload, er, planeload of people, all of the sinning can be split up over all of them, but if you only have two people on the plane, then you're going halfsies with the sin. Not good.

And what does your money go toward in order to absolve you from your guilt? Why, according to the website, it goes to the "...Garcia River Forest, a conservation-based forest management project located in Mendocino County, California." It goes on to tell us about that particular forest and how it is "...dominated by native Redwood and Douglas Fir trees that are remarkably resilient to pests, fire, and disease." Well if they're do damned resilient, why is it that money is needed for them? They seem to be doing just fine on their own. With me so far? Of the $13.50 per ton of CO2 that they're charging you, $12.00 of it goes to "...covering costs associated with locating, researching, and verifying high quality projects as well as the other general operating costs typically incurred by any organization." Wait a minute. How is it supporting the forest one minute and then going on to support a bunch of locating, researching and verifying? Wouldn't "researching" cover the "locating" and the "verifying"? You might notice it doesn't say that they're doing anything once they're done with all of the "researching". So they're just looking into stuff and you're supposed to pay for it. Sounds fair. Sure. And do tell, what "other general operating costs" might they they speaking of? Who knows?!?!

But here's the BEST part! According to Anthony Watts over there at Watts Up With That? (catchy) " can buy a ton of carbon offset on the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) for 20 cents. That’s about 60 times less than what you would pay at the SFO kiosk!" Behold!

Oh, for hell's sake. What?!?! And an article in the Times Online details how the "clean energy auditor" was suspended by the UN because they couldn't prove that they did anything or that if they did that they were qualified to do so.

Look, if you're going to feel that guilty about flying around that you need to just throw your money away, please don't throw it into a kiosk at SFO. Please throw it to me. I promise to detail every little thing that I do with it. Here, I can detail it right now just to save time.

  • I bought beer. Then I drank it. I don't remember much after that, but your money was already gone, so it's really a moo point.


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