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by Larry

January, 2015

Bucks From Yucks

Will you be the next greenhouse gas reduction millionaire? Thousands are now making a living reducing greenhouse gases and then selling carbon offsets. Quite a few are cashing in big time. Here's how it works:

  1. You come up with an idea for how to economically lower carbon dioxide or methane pollution.

  2. You implement it.

  3. Once you have a practical enterprise, you get credit for how much you are sequestering, reducing, or blocking the greenhouse gases that otherwise would be released or already in the atmosphere.

  4. You get to sell your successful carbon reduction to businesses that are producing too much yucky stuff and need to lower their carbon footprints. The going rate (for carbon offsets are traded in a market exchange) seems to be around $5-10 per ton of greenhouse gas reduction in this country, much more in Europe.

  5. You get richer, and the people who buy your credits get to count them toward their own carbon reduction efforts. They have an incentive, besides just being high-minded citizens of the planet, because governments are mandating certain levels of carbon reduction by the polluters.

$5-10 a ton may not seem like much, but it is usually a bonus on top of an already profitable business. For example, farmers in OR are getting paid for the electricity they generate by burning methane collected from huge ponds of liquid manure from dairy cattle. In addition to that, they sell their carbon reduction credits (for the methane used to make energy instead of it going into the air, where it tends to greatly add to the greenhouse effect) to companies like power plant operators who are required to cut greenhouse gas pollution by 25% in the next decade.

The big polluters hardly get off that easily, however. They can reduce their companies' carbon footprints via such offsets but only for up to 8% of their overall lowering of carbon emissions. So carbon offset trades really just give such enterprises a chance to jump start their greenhouse gas emission cutbacks, the bulk of which will still require major changes in how they create power.

Further, some states, such as CA, have instituted their own carbon cap-and-trade programs. Going concerns that trade their carbon offset credits there need not necessarily be profitable in themselves but can still get the credit for officially lowering atmospheric carbon dioxide or methane. For instance, a community forest in northern CA creates verified lowering of carbon dioxide and so offset credits for the community (Arcata City), and the credits can then be sold to polluters.

There are now a host of green energy projects springing up. Some have already done exceptionally well. Various ones help folks merely earn a modest living or supplement other primary sources of income. Others, of course, will ultimately not work out. The field appears to be wide open, though, and your next creative idea could be the one that thrusts you into millionaire status.

Along with dairy cattle manure to methane electricity production and forests sustained (instead of that land being developed) to absorb carbon dioxide, here are a few of the multiple ideas folks have come up with for profitable carbon gases curtailment and selling of offset credits:

  • A new brick production process that involves far lower carbon emissions than in traditional brick making;

  • Using bacteria to fashion biodegradable plastics;

  • A green energy alternative packaging process that uses agricultural products and mushrooms for plastics that require less carbon footprint in their manufacture;

  • An app that rewards college students for energy reductions on campus;

  • A process for converting refinery waste into naphtha, synthetic diesel, and other oil products;

  • An algae-based system that converts carbon dioxide into jet fuel;

  • A "dehumidifier-like" method that takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere;

  • a practice of rotational grazing and using healthier prairie grasses to absorb carbon dioxide;

  • "No-till" farming methods to cash in on naturally sequestering carbon underground;

  • Using wind farms and anaerobic digesters to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that would have been involved in more traditional methods of energy or fuel production.

There is no guarantee of riches from helping to improve our environment, but there are today more ways than ever before to capitalize on going green. Some of the entrepreneurs who try out their creativity and smarts on such ventures will become wealthy doing so. Many others will at least gain extra income. Might you be one of them?

Primary sources:

Entrepreneurs Find Ways To Make Money From Carbon Emissions. Christopher Joyce on NPR; January 5, 2015;

How Carbon Capture Technology Is Turning CO2 into Cash. David Russell Schilling in Industry Tap; July 29, 2013;

The Energy Frontier: Expander's Quest To Turn Carbon Into Cash. Claudia Cattaneo in Financial Post; July 25, 2013;

Turning Carbon Into Cash. in iseek; last updated in July, 2009.

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