August 1, 2014

Carbon Credits

Swapping Carbon

Florida businesses dabble in voluntary carbon-trading markets.

What Are Greenhouse Gases?

Dori Bryant Some greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide both occur naturally and are generated by humans. Others, such as fluorinated gases, are emitted solely through human activities. To measure an industry’s emissions, the amount of any of these greenhouse gases is converted into carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). Here’s a look at those that enter the atmosphere through our activities:

Carbon dioxide (CO2) enters the atmosphere via the burning of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal), solid waste, trees and wood products and also as a result of other chemical reactions such as the manufacture of cement. Carbon dioxide is also removed from the atmosphere (or "sequestered") when it is absorbed by plants as part of the biological carbon cycle.

Methane (CH4) is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas and oil. It also is produced by cattle and other livestock and from the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills.

Nitrous oxide (NO2) is emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste.

Fluorinated gases including hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride are synthetic, powerful greenhouse gases that are emitted from a variety of industrial processes.

— Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Cap-and-Trade Discussion in a Nutshell

FOR: Supporters say cap-and-trade will wean the nation from its reliance on fossil fuels and spark investment in renewable energy. They say cap-and-trade is the most efficient way to charge for carbon because it is market-based. A coalition of big business voices called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, including General Electric, Dow Chemical, Duke Energy and Shell Oil, is supporting national cap-and-trade, in part because the companies worry that if Congress doesn’t act, the EPA will unilaterally impose regulation.

AGAINST: Opponents of cap-and-trade say the system will be hugely complex and subject to gaming and speculation. Companies that favor cap-and-trade are looking to exploit competitive advantages; for consumers and most businesses, a carbon-trading system will drive up costs and make America less competitive. Any emissions reductions will be canceled out by emissions in fast-growing India and China. Some favor a carbon tax as a simpler option; it would provide a more direct incentive to reduce pollution, proponents argue.

Tags: Politics & Law, Energy & Utilities, Environment, Government/Politics & Law

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