Republicans upset with carbon offsets

Top Republicans have called for an investigation into the recent purchase of carbon offsets, which were part of the Democratic leadership’s “Green the Capitol” initiative.
 
In a letter sent Thursday, Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into “questionable purchases of carbon offsets” reported this week in The Washington Post.

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Republicans are criticizing the venture, which paid farms in the Midwest $89,000 to take steps to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and was intended to compensate for the possible pollution that members of Congress contribute to the environment.

Thursday’s letter was the second request sent this month to GAO Comptroller General David Walker regarding the carbon offsets purchases from Barton, the ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Shimkus, ranking member on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.
 
“The investigation should look at relevant spending authorities, financial controls, and related due-diligence behind the purchases, and whether this taxpayer outlay will actually reduce greenhouse emissions,” they said in the letter.
 
Carbon dioxide is one of the leading causes of global warming and is released both naturally, such as through the breaking apart of soil, and by man-made design, such as through coal-burning power plants. Carbon offsets were created to counterbalance the release of carbon into the air through practices such as planting trees, which feed off of carbon and produce oxygen, or employing companies to use non-carbon-producing fuels as energy.

The congressmen’s first letter this month, sent on Jan. 14, called the relatively new field of purchasing carbon offsets “good faith transactions,” saying there are “no proven safeguard(s)” to make sure offset companies, like the Chicago Climate Exchange that the House used, fulfill their promises.
 
“We don’t want carbon offsets to become the 21st century version of snake oil and patent medicine,” Barton and Shimkus wrote.