Friday, November 13, 2009

Questions about carbon offsets raise uncertainty about legislation to limit climate change

A new study from the University of Tennessee’s Bio-Based Energy Analysis Group says cap-and-trade legislation would bring farmers $209 billion in net returns from 2010 to 2025. The report was commissioned by the 25x'25 Alliance, a lobbying coalition whose goal is to have at least 25 percent of U.S. energy come from renewable sources by 2025. According to a news release, the authors warn that if carbon emissions are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, the alternative to a cap-and-trade system with payments to farmers for limiting carbon emissions, net farm income will fall well below U.S. Department of Agriculture baseline projections. (Read more)

Even without cap-and-trade legislation, in the last two years more than 9,000 cattlemen and crop growers signed contracts to farm in ways that are supposed to capture and store nearly 5 million tons of carbon a year, freelance journalist and former Washington Post writer Dan Morgan reports. The economic downturn and uncertainty about legislation have helped cut carbon prices from $7 a ton last year to as low as 10 cents a ton this year.

An Agricultural Research Service study in Minnesota showed test plots using no-till and other carbon storage practices showed very similar carbon levels to plots farmed using traditional methods after a year. These questions have led many farm-state lawmakers to oppose climate legislation, Morgan reports. Not all farmers will be able to sell carbon offsets due to geographic limitations, but Morgan writes, "with or without action in Washington on climate legislation, carbon seems certain to emerge as a major agricultural commodity." (Read more)

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