Tuesday, February 05, 2008

When A Credit in Thine Account Ye Place, Pollute Ye May, Without Disgrace!

Call me behind the times or hopelessly out of touch, but last week I heard, for the first time, about carbon credits.

The way these credits work, as far as I can tell, is by allocating to a company a certain amount of credits which they can use to pollute the environment. Companies that pollute less, and therefore have extra credits which remain unused, can sell those credits to companies whose pollution levels exceed what their carbon credits will allow.

First of all, this sounds a lot like the Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences, doesn't it? If you're going to sin, here's a pre-approved, divinely sanctioned excuse for it. Pretty soon we'll be hearing that the carbon credits still in the accounts of companies that go belly-up will be placed in a "treasury of merit" from which those with less than super-erogatory tendencies may draw.

Secondly, it drives me crazy that something like "environmental virtue" can be placed within the jurisdiction of the Market and treated as a commodity. Didn't there used to be things called "commons" which were, back in the day at least, big open spaces that belonged to everyone? Well, it seems the Enclosure Act that placed literal spaces (like parks and greenbelts) in private hands has extended beyond mere real estate and now includes all kinds of other things that are now up for sale.

I guess it just annoys me that everything from schools to street signs, hospitals to health care, and water to warfare are subjected to Market forces and treated as consumer products auctioned off to the highest bidder.

OK, enough ranting....