Airport passes emission option

24 December 2007
In the media
Published at
Burbank Leader
Quotes Kevin Smith
BURBANK — The tri-cities governing board of Bob Hope Airport approved a program Monday that allows the airport’s rental car customers to purchase carbon-offsetting credits for environmentally friendly programs. But some are wary that the program amounts to an evasive excuse for environmental responsibility. In a unanimous vote, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority passed the Rental Car Voluntary Carbon Offset Fee that allows customers of three rental car companies on the airport grounds — Enterprise, National and Alamo — to voluntarily contribute $1.25 to a San Francisco-based company that funds projects to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and replaces fossil fuel power with alternative forms of energy. Airport staffers estimate the trio of rental car companies will generate about $154,000 in carbon offset payments annually. The company, TerraPass, specializes in carbon offsetting, a term that refers to the mitigation of greenhouse gases from individual contributions. The three-year-old business funds clean energy and greenhouse-gas-reduction projects throughout the country, said TerraPass Chief Environmental Officer Tom Arnold. advertisement “The company funds three types of leading-edge projects: clean energy produced by wind power; biomass such as dairy farm methane digesters; and industrial efficiencies such as landfill methane captures,” he said. Airport officials praised the move and reflected on the proposal as the next natural step in a line of environmental advances. “This has regional value,” airport spokesman Victor Gill said. “This is another notch in this airport’s belt.” In 2004, the airport embarked on a $1.3-million program to install 42 battery chargers for electric ground service equipment at all 14 airline gates that encouraged airlines to use non-diesel ground service equipment, Gill said. While carbon-offset programs have helped reduce carbon dioxide, critics are wary of the strategy, positing that it amounts to little more than environmental pacification. “Carbon offsets are essentially snake oil,” said Kevin Smith a researcher with Carbon Trade Watch, a project of the Transnational Institute. “[They are] a fictitious commodity invented to sell to falsely appease people’s climate consciences and distracting energy away from the real project of social and economic transformation that needs to happen to deal with the threat of climate change.” For their part, TerraPass believes that carbon offsets are the most functional way to help the environment. “We believe that people should reduce their energy consumption as much as possible, but it is difficult for some people to totally eliminate their carbon footprint,” Arnold said. “If you still fly, drive a car or buy electricity and natural gas for your home, we can help you take responsibility for your global warming impact by balancing out your remaining carbon emissions.” Balancing that out may be hard in Southern California, where Los Angeles ranks as the most polluted city in the country, according to a May poll from the American Lung Assn. Despite that, Burbank is still doing its part, said Councilwoman Anja Reinke, a member of the Burbank’s Environmental Oversight Committee. “It’s hard to have a significant impact based on our location,” she said. Customers outside the rental car center at Bob Hope Airport seemed willing to contribute money to the program. “Yeah, I would do it,” said Tim Sears, an airport construction agent from San Bruno. “Air travel is the most polluting thing we do, so I would contribute if it helps the environment.” Others, such as 14-year-old Becca Sigal from Ohio, brushed aside worries that carbon offsetting was little more than a cop-out for other environmentally friendly measures. “If carbon offsetting lets people know about the problems in the environment, then that’s good,” she said.