A recent blog post on Freakonomics asks the question, “Are carbon offsets too good to be true?

The thriving carbon-offset market in the U.S. allows individuals and companies to voluntarily offset their carbon footprints relatively painlessly — just point, click, and pay. If the United States implements a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions, as it now seems likely to do, carbon offsets will likely play an increasingly large role in carbon-emissions reductions.

The offset credits are a popular component of most cap-and-trade proposals because they have the potential to lessen the economic costs of the programs. The cost of upgrading to environmentally friendly practices is very high for certain industries and carbon-offset credits can ease the transition in these situations. However there are doubts about whether the offset credits actually represent reduced emissions.

I have always been suspicious of these schemes, particularly the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). One can only hope that bureaucratic hurdles limit their use.