The MTA Hopes Its Green Attitude Leads To Tons Of Greenbacks

Last Monday, Newsday’s morning paper AMNY featured a story about the MTA’s plans to have their “green” attitude lead to tons of greenbacks. In simpler terms, the MTA is partnering with the consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton in hopes of being able to make money from selling credits they earned from cleaning up the environment to companies who would be in need of such credits to fall within legal standards. Simply put the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to get paid for helping high polluting companies legally pollute. Here is the full article courtesy of Newsday via AMNY:

The MTA recently released “green” MetroCards that touted mass transit’s benefit to the environment. The agency, however, hopes to take their efforts farther by selling its pollution reducing benefits for cash on the carbon trading market.

Last month, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a $776,000 contract with consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton to measure its carbon footprint and look at ways to create revenues “in a tradable-carbon situation.”

What that means is that the MTA hopes eventually to quantify the amount of pollution it removes from the air through mass transit, put a value on it, and sell it to a company that is a high polluter. By paying the MTA, the company would legally be allowed to pollute.

“This is all quite new and unique and a little bit out there,” said Projjal Dutta, director of sustainability initiatives at the MTA.

Carbon-trading is more common to Europe and Japan, where nations are committed under the Kyoto Protocol to limit their emissions greenhouse gases.

Through mandated “cap-and-trade” programs, a business can exceed the allowed limit on greenhouse pollution it releases if it buys unused emissions from a “clean” industry on the carbon-trading market. These so-called carbon “offsets” are usually generated in the developing world through projects that are certified to reduce greenhouse gases.

It’s uncertain how much the MTA stands to profit from such a deal.

Worldwide carbon-trading was a $64 billion business in 2007. Some 2.9 billion tons were traded at a price range of 8 to 20 euros per ton (about $12 to $31), said Eron Bloomgarden, U.S. director of EcoSecurities, a company in the emissions reduction market.

In the United States, because the market is voluntary, carbon brings only $2 to $7 per ton on the New York Mercantile Exchange‘s Green Exchange, which opened in March, and the Chicago Climate Exchange that started in December 2003, Bloomgarden said.

That’s expected to change fairly soon. All three presidential candidates support adopting some form of cap-and-trade policy in the United States.

The MTA is putting itself in a position to try and profit from whatever policy is mandated. The agency actually has a negative carbon footprint because subways, trains, and buses take cars off the road and reduce congestion, which means that cars do not burn as much fuel sitting in traffic.

“A system ought to be in place that incents somebody like the MTA through some other means to keep increasing those passenger miles,” Dutta said.

I now bring in the viewpoint from Benjamin Kabak of Second Avenue Sagas who pegs this issue dead on when he said:

In trying to wrap my head around the idea of the MTA trading its carbon credits in an emissions market, I keep landing on two distinct points that are seemingly at odds with each other. On the one hand, as we well know, the MTA is searching high and low for any dollars it can scrounge up. The authority needs money to keep our public transit system in a state of good repair and, looking ahead, for much needed expansion plans as well. To that end, if the powers that be feel they can capitalize on the MTA’s negative emissions, then they should do so.

But on the other hand, the environmentalist public transit advocate in me is a little wary of the carbon trading plan. If the MTA is allowing some other company to continue to pollute by trading them their carbon credits and profiting from it, does that really match the agency’s desired and publicly-stated goals of becoming a greener organization. Until the U.S. starts putting stricter caps on greenhouse emissions, the MTA is simply profiting off some other company’s pollutants. That’s fine for the bottom line but not so fine for the environment.

Check out his entire entry on the issue by clicking here.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself!

P.S. It always brings a smile to my face when I hear about Booz Allen Hamilton as lets just say if only those walls could talk, the stories you would here…………

xoxo Transit Blogger

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