The Times’s long-running occasional series, The Energy Challenge, runs a poser today by Keith Bradsher. He reports on carbon markets and similar efforts by which emitters of the bad stuff can buy compensating credits. Such credits reflect reductions of similar emissions elsewhere. But the story is a sobering reminder that it’s no snap to harness market forces for the common good. Costs are out of whack, sources tell him, big money is going into pockets of international industrialists who may use it to build yet more polluting plants, and most of the focus is going to some obscure freon-type refrigerant rather than to CO2 emissions.
Bradsher focusses on one such plant in China that, it says here, emits waste gas with the greenhouse potential equal to a million American cars. Shutting it down surely is a good way to even the accounts of pollution elsewhere. The effort, one thinks, is necessary. But unseen hands are one thing, writing effective, big books of rules is another.