Carbon programmes fail without climate bill
BISMARCK: A national program that paid farmers millions of dollars for reducing greenhouse gasses has fizzled amid uncertainty about U.S. climate legislation, stopped paying dividends and will no longer taken enrollment after this year, the president of the group running it said.
The North Dakota Farmers Union awarded farmers carbon dioxide credits for using techniques that reduced emissions of carbon and other gasses tied to global warming and distributed the proceeds when those credits were sold to businesses, cities and others. About 3,900 farmers and ranchers from 40 states have earned about $7.4 million through the program since it started in 2006.
But carbon credits that fetched up to $7 a metric ton a few years ago are now nearly worthless, said Robert Carlson, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union. The group has 6 million tons worth of credits that have gone unsold, and while it will continue to try to sell those, no new credits will be issued after this year, Carlson said. The program based in Jamestown is the largest of about a dozen similar carbon credit programs nationwide that cater solely to farmers and ranchers. Those other programs are facing the same difficulties, said Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union in Washington and a former North Dakota agriculture commissioner. The credits would have had value if Congress had passed so-called cap-and-trade climate legislation. A bill that would have limited greenhouse gas emissions but let companies and others offset their pollution by buying carbon credits passed the Democrat-controlled House last year but has languished in the Senate. Republicans have derided the bill, which had strong support from Democratic President Barack Obama, as "cap-andtax" because they said it would increase the cost of energy.
"The high point of the prices coincided at the time of the presidential primaries and the economy was strong," Johnson said. -Ap