Thursday, July 26, 2007

Buying The Excuse

Ireland's Minister for Energy and Natural Resources has arrived in Washington DC to meet his fellow politicians to discuss that which politicians discuss. As Mr. Eamon Ryan could not very well peddle his bicycle across the ocean, the green-oriented gentleman had to come up with some other way to not put carbon into the air.

He could of course have chartered a tall-masted schooner and crossed the Atlantic under wind power alone, but that is time consuming and Mr. Ryan has things to do. He can't very well take a month or two to conduct a bit of political business, when a plane would cut his travel time to almost insignificance. Pity, as there is yet a touch of romance in a square-rigged ship, canvas billowing, cutting through the waves. You'd think that a man so keen to use alternative energy would put in a good word for the beauty of sailing.

But Mr. Ed Markey, who chairs the House Sub-Committee for Telecoms, was waiting and we all have schedules to keep and things to do. Dick Beaird of the State Department had Mr. Ryan pencilled in his daily calendar, and people from Global Telecom were expecting a call from the minister. No time to sail, speed of the essence, so the Green Party minister had no choice but to fly over in a carbon-spewing plane.

But how can he be green while flying? It's not easy being green, as Kermit the Frog has pointed out so sweetly, but it's simple, actually. Mr. Ryan paid down his guilt.

The airplane burned fossil fuel, make no mistake about that, and it did put carbon atoms into the atmosphere. The difference with those particular carbon atoms is the fact that the Irish Government used taxpayer euro to buy carbon credits. Makes it all better, doesn't it? Isn't the air sweeter because of the use of Exchequer cash? Who needs to buy books and uniforms for poor children when there's carbon to be offset?

Everyone gets their quota of carbon dioxide emissions, and if you're clever enough to not use all of yours, then someone like Eamon Ryan will come along and give you money so that they can spew CO2 into the atmosphere and feel good about it. It's all about the gesture, of appearing to be doing one's bit to reduce greenhouse gasses, but not really doing anything constructive. Give some organization the cash, and you can claim that you didn't harm the earth at all with your transatlantic flight.

As for actually reducing emissions, doing something concrete and constructive? That's for the little people, those who are too poor to afford the grand gesture of buying carbon credits and behaving as if they are the champions of the air we breathe.


Anonymous said...


O hAnnrachainn said...

Saying you don't add carbon to the atmosphere while flying in a modern airplane is a bit delusional.

Actions and words and all that.