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The Bull Market in Green Guilt

bull.jpgThe U.S. financial market is in turmoil, but it seems “there is still a bull market in environmental guilt,” writes David A. Fahrenthold in the Washington Post.

The Conservation Fund, which sells carbon offsets directly to buyers, reported that this year’s sales have increased 9 percent to individuals and 22 percent to companies. New Carbon Finance found that prices in direct-to-customer markets have increased 26 percent since 2007, from $5 to $6.32 a ton of GHG.

The increase was partly driven by demand from corporations, which bought around 80 percent of U.S. carbon offsets last year. In addition, experts who study offsets say the American public has become accustomed to feeling guilty about the environment and are learning to buy their way out.

What’s more, experts say the financial crisis has not yet reached those upper-middle-class consumers who are willing to pay for offsets. These consumers also do not think of offsets as a luxury purchase, for now.

But industry insiders are worried that the “guilt boom is about to bust,” writes Fahrenthold.

There is also growing concern that vendors sometimes do not deliver what they promise. A report by the Government Accountability Office found that the growing U.S. market for carbon offsets is so loosely regulated that it offers consumers “limited assurance of credibility.”

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