Following up on the earlier posts about the U.S. House’s carbon offset program, we see that Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX) and John Shimkus (R-IL) of the Energy and Commerce Committee have asked GAO to take a look. The two had originally requested a broader study of offset programs, and now, in a letter to Comptroller General David Walker, they write:
[We] believe carbon offset programs provide a potentially valuable way for people to make direct commitments to environmental quality. However, without transparency, honesty, and reliable evidence of effectiveness, the programs seem poised to betray purchasers’ good intentions. As you know, not only do the individuals making these purchases risk being duped, but taxpayers are at risk as well — as government bodies at all levels respond to ‘green’ marketing pitches.
We are troubled to see that our own U.S. House of Representatives has been involved in the questionable purchase of carbon offsets. In November 2007, the House Chief Administrative Officer, as part of the Democratic Leadership’s Green the Capitol Initiative, announced a substantial $89,000 purchse of offsets from the Chicago Climate Exchange. We now learn, according to the January 28, 2008, Washington Post report, “Value of U.S. House’s Carbon Offsets Is Murky,” that these taxpayer funds may not have been purchased any new environmental benefit — just empty promises.
In light of this, we request that GAO, in the course of its work on these matters, specifically examine and report the manner and means by which the House of Representatives made these purchases. The investigation should look at relevant spending authorities, financial controls, and related due-diligence behind the purchases, and whether this taxpayer outlay will actually reduce greenhouse emissions.
A reasonable request, more evidence of the serious questions being raised — the FTC is looking into the market — about this suddenly prominent business, which is often accompanied by feel-good claims of greenness.
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