To buy or not? California says no to climate offsets for state employee travel

Al Gore buys them. So do the Grateful Dead, Hollywood celebrities and, increasingly, many climate-conscious executives and consumers. For those who travel the world by air but don't want to contribute to global warming in the process, compensating with so-called carbon offsets has become a fashionable solution.

The sale of these credits for environmentally friendly activities, investments in everything from wind energy to carbon stored in forests, jumped from $97 million in 2006 to $331 million worldwide in 2007, about a quarter of it in the United States. But one global green leader does not offset its travel, even though its employees regularly fly around the world warning about the dangers of climate change and devising strategies to combat it. That leader is the state of California.

"As a state employee, you are put in an awkward situation," said Tony Brunello, deputy secretary of climate change and energy at the Natural Resources Agency who has traveled to Europe, South America and Indonesia. "We are trying to push (emissions) reductions," Brunello said. "It would help us, as state workers, to have some clear direction on what you do and you don't offset."

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