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Daily Telegraph: BP to back carbon-offset windfarm schemes

(Filed: 26/08/2006)

From this week, BP filling stations will be adorned with a new logo for the company’s new carbon-offsetting initiative, Target Neutral.
  
By registering on the website www.targetneutral.com, you can, says BP, offset the CO2 emissions from your car by paying towards a carbon-neutralising scheme such as windfarms or biomass plants in India or livestock farms in Mexico.

If, for example, you own mid-sized family saloon and drive approximately 10,000 miles a year, thereby producing about four tons of CO2 per annum, it will cost you about £20 to offset your car’s CO2 emissions for a year, according to calculations done on the Target Neutral website.

Sounds like an impossibly easy way to ease your conscience and save the world from global warming? That’s because it largely is impossible. BP has based its calculations on the low market price of carbon at just under £5 per tonne instead of a higher, more realistic price based on fluctuations caused by variations in rates of consumption. It’s also a potentially dangerous way to involve people in offsetting: even one of the scheme’s board members acknowledged that some people could see the initiative as an excuse to go out and buy another V8 gas-guzzler, in the assurance that they could simply pay their 40 quid and have a clear conscience. The fact is that as much as you offset your emissions, you are still pumping CO2 into the atmosphere.

Other downsides to the scheme are that none of the local-community offsetting schemes are in this country, and, even if every motorist pays to offset his or her CO2 emissions, the scheme’s results won’t be included when the UK’s annual CO2 figures are audited.

BP is keen to stress that Target Neutral is a stand-alone, not-for-profit, voluntary project, and it will be monitored by a board that includes people from the Eden Project, Forum for the Future, Centre for Transport Policy and the National Consumer Council. You don’t have to buy your fuel from BP to participate in Target Neutral. However, if you do fill up at a BP station, and register your Nectar card with the scheme, BP will donate approx 0.2p per litre of fuel depending on your tank size, and double that for a tank of BP Ultimate fuel, when you pay.

However sceptically the British public receives BP’s gesture, the launch of Target Neutral this week demonstrates that “carbon neutral”, “offsetting”, “carbon footprint” and “carbon literacy” are terms that the motoring public has to clue up on, rapidly. Road transport accounts, after all, for a fifth of UK CO2 emissions.

Plenty of carbon-offsetting schemes are already in existence, but Steve Koonin, chief scientist at BP, probably has a point when he said this week: “It’s about carbon literacy; about educating people in months not years.” BP is a major household name, and motorists need to be aware of the damaging effect of their cars’ CO2 emissions, even if it’s through a grandiose PR stunt.

Shell and BP both expanded their high-performance fuel ranges this week – Shell launched V-Power and BP widened the availability of Ultimate 102 at £2.42 a litre. Both are intended for highly tuned, high-performance cars.
 

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