To borrow from The Clash, it's Carmageddeon Time! Jet Blue's offering $4 flights between Long Beach and Burbank. (A fiver if you want leg room.) And JetBlue is one of the few airlines that — when you book with them — directs you to a place where you can offset your carbon because riding in a great big jet plane takes great big combustion engines that burn great big fuel. And since fossil fuel burning creates greenhouse gases and these companies purport to let you pay your share of the greenhouse effect.
I just checked with Carbonfund.org, JetBlue's corporate partners. The cost, they say, to offset the carbon for that flight is $0.12. Twelve little cents! (That's based on Carbonfund.org's calculation that you're responsible for 0.01 metric tons of CO2.)
"It’s really minor, but if there are a good number of people offsetting their flights, it adds up," says Jordana Fyne, Carbonfund.org's communications specialist.
Just for kicks, I tried to plug in that flight to Atmosfair, a German company that purports to do the same thing. Here's their calculations:
Atmosfair says the carbon burden is 50 kg2 a flight. That's just a different way of saying 0.05 metric tons, five times what Carbonfund.org estimates. For five times the burden, you'd pay a hundred times the price: 9 Euro is today about $12.73. As a guy on "Saturday Night Live" says, what's up with that? Atmosfair charges $254.60 a metric ton, is what's up with that. Atmosfair's methodology is here. They include efficiency points for the length of the flight.
Carbonfund.org doesn't do that in part, I suspect, because an American-based market doesn't demand that level of specificity; we're still dipping our toes into the market. And Carbonfund.org does seem to have exacting standards so that you know your 12 cents will be well used. But Carbonfund.org's metric ton price is $12.
We haven't done too much in the way of local reporting on carbon offset pricing, but it's pretty much established that these kind of programs may do more for peoples' mindsets than the Earth: They veer wildly between resembling indulgences (I know, cliche, but who doesn't love a little 16th century Catholic history) and ripoffs. In a different era, the House of Representatives offset its carbon, but decided in the long run to invest in energy efficiency instead. If anyone knows you can't use trees to plant away your guilt, it's the city of Los Angeles. But I do wonder what impact pricing has against environmental considerations when people are deciding to take a short haul flight. Especially during Carmageddon.
Are you going to hop an #abovethe405 flight? Or is the whole idea a stake through your heart?