Volkswagen joins the carbon offsetting craze, announcing today it will neutralize one year’s worth of emissions for every car sold in the United States between September and January. And how will the automaker do that, you may ask? VW, in collaboration with non-profit Carbonfund.org, will plant some 250,000 trees on farmland in northern Louisiana. VW claims the "Volkswagen Forest" will soak up 372,000 tons of CO2. Planting trees, of course, produces a host of environmental benefits for the land, wildlife and people. But using forests to offset greenhouse gas emissions is controversial and for good reason. Trees absorb carbon over over the span of many years while the greenhouse gases spewed from the tailpipe of, say, a VW Touareg SUV begins to warm the planet the moment the key is put in the ignition. (A Touareg, for instance, emits more than 16,000 pounds of C02 if driven 15,000 miles a year, according to Terrapass.) If the Volkswagen Forest burns down or trees die, any offsets will be lost. And research from some scientists indicates that planting forests in North America has a negligible impact on global warming (though that’s not the case in the Southern Hemisphere). Earlier this year, Land Rover (F) began offsetting C02 from its petrol-guzzling SUVs in the U.K., though it charged its customers for the service. Obviously, if automakers really want to slow global warming they could encourage customers to buy smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and ratchet up their investments in plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle research and production.
Carbon Not Wanted: VW Offsets Car Buyers’ Greenhouse Gas Emissions
August 30, 2007 by Todd Woody