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Clearing your conscience — and the air
Description: Being a trendy guy, I always want to catch on early to something like becoming "carbon-neutral." So I went to www.cooldrivepass.ca, and its handy emissions calculator told me that my car (a small, fuel-efficient turbo-diesel) produces 3,170 kilograms of carbon dioxide a year.
Date: 03 October 2006
Author: Michael Vaughan
Source: Globe and Mail
Being a trendy guy, I always want to catch on early to something like becoming "carbon-neutral."

So I went to www.cooldrivepass.ca, and its handy emissions calculator told me that my car (a small, fuel-efficient turbo-diesel) produces 3,170 kilograms of carbon dioxide a year.

That's the bad news. The good news was that for only $63.40 I could purchase enough environmental benefits elsewhere to undo all the damage I was doing by driving my car for a year.

What a bargain! Welcome to the world of carbon offsets. We've all heard about schemes like this where your liberal conscience directs you to pay money to plant trees somewhere, feel good about it and, in effect, get a voluntary "license to pollute." But now a Vancouver-based group says they've found the way to make carbon offsets work for Canadians.

They sell you a CoolDrivePass and, with the money you pay voluntarily, they invest in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They charge you just enough money to buy just enough of a project to reduce emissions by just the amount that is produced by your car.

CoolDrivePass, a commercial enterprise, is part of a new industry that promises to make consumers climate friendly. Britain's Avis, for example, offers customers the option to make a rental car carbon-neutral by buying carbon offsets. WestJet has a similar deal with another Vancouver-based group called www.offsetters.ca in which the airline agrees to invest part of the normal ticket cost to offset the climate impacts of your travel.

Hadi Dowlatabadi is executive director of CoolDrivePass, and is the Canada research chairman and a professor in the Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia.

He grew up in Iran, but was sent to school in Scotland. He studied mathematics, physics and computer science at the University of Edinburgh, and then completed a PhD in physics at Cambridge.

Dowlatabadi says that a desire to solve real-world problems, rather than chasing elusive little particles, led him to focus on the interfaces of energy, society and the environment.

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