November 16, 2006 2:56 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have opinions about Terra Pass?

The rates they offter seem quite cheap to counteract one's auto emission. My Civic only requires $30 per year for 'a Hybrid TerraPass offsets 6,000 lbs of CO2'. Does this seem plausible?
posted by of strange foe to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total)
Do you want facts or opinions? The wording of your question is unclear.

I've had a TerraPass for 2 years now and I like it. They seem very professional and they don't sell my personal information to other organizations. That's my opinion.

As for the math you asked about in the second half of your question, I do not know, but a quick Google search brought up this article from an environmental economics blog, and I'm sure there's plenty more research you could do on your own if you were so motivated.
posted by matildaben at 3:01 PM on November 16, 2006

Here's a comparison of retail carbon offset certificates (which is basically what Terrapass is). Their price seems about on par. I'm surprised that they're not certified, but they're high profile enough (partnering with Ford and Travelocity, I think) that they're playing a really stupid game if they're cheating. ... Oh, looking at their webpage, it seems that they're partly certified by Green-e (the major certifier) and totally certified by a different group.
posted by claxton6 at 5:01 PM on November 16, 2006

No doubt the calculations are a bit fixed. Do they factor in the CO2 produced while making the car, or the CO2 produced when building your share of the roads? Do they add a penalty based on the transportation of that gasoline to you? How about a penalty for the military infrastructure and deployment costs which make it possible for you to get the gas in the first place?

On the other side of the equation, what does it mean for TerraPass to offset emissions?
TerraPass funds clean energy from sources like wind farms, methane capture facilities, and more.
It could be argued that those measures are just a further subsidy to already artificially cheap electricity. You are essentially giving money to help establish alternative energy industries. One day economies of scale might make those industries cost competitive with coal. The problem is, when that happens, coal gets cheaper, energy in general gets cheaper, demand goes up, and there goes your offset.

$30 per year for 'a Hybrid TerraPass offsets 6,000 lbs of CO2'. Does this seem plausible?

Now comes the really cynical part.. It is really just marketing. They do a hand waving calculation, see what number comes out the other end, then decide if consumers feeling eco-guilt will pay that much for the anti-guilt pill. It seems a lot like suggested donation levels on PBS funding drives.

I don't know, that is a very pessimistic view, and based on superficial analysis, but.. I can't fight the feeling that TerraPass is trying to solve the problem of rampant consumerism by adding another product to the marketplace. Ya, like that'll work..

There is an upside though. Enough people participating - putting their money where their mouth is - and governments and corporations will probably notice. Giving $30/year is a much stronger signal of your opinion than answering yes to a survey question like, "is the environment important to you?" See, I've never owned a car, which is obviously a lot bigger carbon offset than paying TerraPass, but it isn't going to influence decision makers. The message I'm sending isn't in the right language, but buying a TerraPass might be.
posted by Chuckles at 8:39 PM on November 16, 2006

Terrapass is going after the low-hanging fruit of CO2 reduction--they're doing the easiest things first. I understand they tend to help places where someone's just on the verge of going low-CO2 and putting them over the hump.

Some people have actually criticized them for this. Personally, I think it's just common sense. Either way, it does explain why things are relatively cheap.

And 6000 lbs of CO2 isn't all that much of a reduction: one gallon of gasoline produces 19lbs of CO2. That's what you get from burning 315 gallons of gas. Nothing to sneeze at, but less than many people would expect.
posted by IvyMike at 11:34 PM on November 16, 2006

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