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This is a joint post with Matt Hoffman.
Carbon offsets -- granting rights to emit greenhouse gases beyond a stated ceiling in exchange for contributions to cutting emissions elsewhere -- are an important part of the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill now making its way through the U.S. Congress. Offsets have plenty of appeal, but in practice they have a poor track record. And there are less risky, lower cost ways to achieve similar goals.
You could be forgiven for thinking that national action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is going nowhere. This article in yesterday’s Washington Post describes the persistent hand-wringing inside the Beltway about the putative cost of cap-and-trade regulation. The argument continues although, as I and many others have argued, the U.S.