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Climate

Taylor Swift’s Sky-High Carbon Allowance


No one escapes the climate police these days, and that includes Taylor Swift.

The pop star has been criticized recently for emitting CO2 on her frequent trips on a private jet to see her beau Travis Kelce play for the Kansas City Chiefs.

But not to worry. A spokesperson for the entertainer says Ms. Swift has been buying carbon offsets. [emphasis, links added]

Ah, yes, offsets. The megastar joins a growing concert of companies and countries that are using these climate indulgences to offset their CO2 emissions.

These privately issued credits let them pretend to be reducing emissions even when they’re not. While the credits have a notional financial value, their primary purpose is to deflect criticism.

The credits are similar to commodities in that they can be traded. They’re usually denominated in dollars or euros per metric ton.

Last month the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission proposed guidance for companies seeking to list carbon credit derivatives for trading. But unlike, say, oil, carbon allowances don’t inherently possess an economic value.

They are a political creation that lets companies and countries—and now celebrities—virtue signal. If a manufacturer wants to claim it is reducing emissions, it can buy a credit rather than use less gas or coal power.

Instead of flying commercial, Ms. Swift can buy credits to offset trips on her $40 million Dassault aircraft. Carbon offsets don’t significantly reduce emissions, but they do promote the illusion that a net-zero world is possible.

Green businesses and developing countries can generate credits for projects that putatively reduce CO2 emissions.

They can then sell their credits to companies and countries that need to reduce their emissions to meet their climate goals. Third parties audit and validate these credits, though the market is fragmented and largely unregulated.

Wall Street banks also buy and underwrite these credits as well as facilitate their trading. JPMorgan Chase last year agreed to invest more than $200 million to buy credits from businesses working on removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

There’s even more money to be made from carbon offsets to preserve trees, which might not be chopped down anyway.

Timber company Weyerhaeuser last month boasted it had struck a deal to sell nearly 32,000 carbon credits at $29 per credit [$928,000]. Credits generated from not logging can be even more profitable than timber sales.

Guyana is generating millions of carbon offsets for preserving rainforests that are unlikely to be cleared anyway because it lacks rich soil for agricultural production.

The South American country in 2022 sold 37.5 million carbon offsets to Hess Corp. for at least $750 million, and it is now trying to sell credits to countries seeking to meet their Paris climate pledges.

Switzerland has signed bilateral deals with Ghana, Senegal, Dominica, Vanuatu, and Peru to buy credits for what are effectively economic development projects—such as installing more efficient stoves and supporting “sustainable” rice production.

Such credits are essentially foreign aid, but they help countries meet their Paris climate-accord targets.

Ms. Swift is a brilliant entertainer and businesswoman, and her private jet flights are nothing to feel guilty about. She might take her own advice and shake off the climate criticism without the offset illusions.

Falcon 900 image via YouTube screencap; Swift inset via HDQWalls

h/t Steve B.

Read more at WSJ

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