Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Gas-guzzler guilt?

CNN, of all places, has a pretty interesting article on a company called TerraPass, which allows people to buy emissions reductions to offset emissions created by their vehicles. It's an interesting idea, but one that's doomed to failure. Why? Because, by definition, people who buy SUVs don't feel guilty about their various negative externalities. Whether you're talking about the risk to other vehicles, the risk to their own vehicle, the massive quantities of hydrocarbons they consume, or the overall draw on the resource chain, I strongly doubt that SUV drivers give a flying fuck.

The founder of TerraPass might be surprised that loony enviros like myself who drive small, energy-efficient cars are buying the offsets, but I'm not. As he notes towards the end of the article, we really do have conflicted relationships with our cars. On the whole, though, relying on people's guilt or good will is a terrible way to set environmental policy, and it's a terrible way to run a business. All evidence suggests that you need an array of incentives (or disincentives) for most people and businesses to begin adopting environmentally efficient technologies and practices.

ADDENDUM: I hereby exempt all owners of pre-1992 Toyota 4-Runners, especially those 4-Runners having only 2 doors and removable tops, from any of my previous over-broad generalizations about scurrilous SUV owners. You know who you are.