Thursday, September 13, 2007

Color me PO’d

Despite the shade and hue my name may suggest to some, I’m green.

A corner of my kitchen is devoted to an in-house recycling center and anyone who has ever been a passenger in my car knows that I consider littering to be a deadly sin.

I have literally hugged trees – the California Redwoods left an indelible image on my 8-year-old brain during a family vacation in the late ’60s – and conservationists Jacques Cousteau, Jane Goodall and Steve Irwin are on my all-time hero list.

But right now I’m a little more blue than green. In fact, I’m so blue that I’m seeing red.

A deal struck between the state of California and ConocoPhillips Co. this week will see the second-largest refiner in the U.S. pay a “whopping” $10 million as a trade-off for pumping an extra 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year at its Contra Costa County refinery.

That’s right, a one-time $10 million “offset” payment is going to get this mega-company off the hook. As if that drop in the environmental bucket is going to make up for half a million tons of poison a year. (To put that $10 million into perspective, ConocoPhillips reported revenue topping $183 billion for 2006.)

Even if there was a for-sure mathematical equation to use to calculate the actual “cost” of the increased emissions that will be coming from the refinery, and even if it turned out that $10 million would cover it, ConocoPhillips wouldn’t be doing us any favors.

All the oil giant would be doing in that scenario would be allowing the environment to break even. They wouldn’t be making the air any cleaner, they just wouldn’t be making it any dirtier, and last time I checked, the status quo of smog was not at an acceptable level, especially in California.

The “offset” payment is being touted as the “first of its kind,” as if it were a major breakthrough.

It is, but it’s big oil that is getting the break.

I wonder if the California Air Resources Board would consider such a break for truckers who don’t want to comply with emissions regulations? Would they take a one-time payment from truckers who don’t want to abide by the anti-idling rules? Not bloody likely.