Friday, February 10, 2012

Uncertainties cloud carbon offset program

Forestry's recognition as a carbon-friendly industry could provide lucrative opportunities for timberland owners in the emerging world of carbon credits.

However, uncertainties in California's upcoming cap-and-trade regulations could make it costly and risky for companies to sign up with forest projects, industry insiders told a gathering today.

Critical details of the program set up by Assembly Bill 32, the state's global warming law, have yet to be worked out, they say. The state may skim as much as 10 percent off the top of carbon-offset fees paid by emitters, with some money perhaps going toward a controversial high-speed rail project.

And enrolling a swath of forest land in the program to offset emissions elsewhere could cause the land to be tied up for as many as 150 years – a major disincentive for small landowners, said Ed Murphy of timber giant Sierra Pacific Industries.

“It's not for the faint of heart,” Murphy said during a workshop at the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference. “It's not exactly an opportunity yet.”

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