I've been using the term plenary indulgence to describe those so-called "Carbon Offset" payments for a while. Ace has noticed the striking similarities as well.
Oscar bags contained 10,000 pounds worth of supposed carbon offsets.
From where is this carbon being offset?
Well, for a real offset, you'd have to pay someone to do something he otherwise would not do (such as fill a lot of his land with trees he otherwise would not have planted), or pay someone not to do something they otherwise would have done (such as not fly on chartered private jets).
But it seems these supposed "offsets" are coming from people doing things they were already doing -- for example, TerraPass is selling "reduced methane" emissions in its garbage dumps, despite the fact they were already reducing methane before the sale of "carbon offsets."
Thus, you're not paying someone to generate less "greenhouse gases." You're paying someone to continue generating the same levels of greenhouse gases they were before you paid them.
It's absurd, but what Al Gore and his Hollywood nitwits are doing, basically, is paying me not to fly on private Gulfstream jets. Well, see, I already wasn't flying on them. Paying me not to fly on them does pad my pocket a bit, but it doesn't reduce carbon dioxide emissions, because I already wasn't flying on them.
Carbon offsets are not carbon offsets at all. They're hypocrisy offsets at best.
And, of course, they're really just indulgences for the Church of Gaia.
Update: John Fund of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page unearthed the following:
The Nashville-based Tennessee Center for Policy Research was skeptical that Mr. Gore had been "walking the walk" on the environment. It obtained public records showing that for years Mr. Gore has burned through more electricity at his Nashville home each month than the average American family uses in a year--and his consumption was increasing. The heated Gore pool house alone ran up more than $500 in natural-gas bills every month.
Mr. Gore's office responded by claiming that the Gores "purchase offsets for their carbon emissions to bring their carbon footprint down to zero." But CNSNews.com reports that Mr. Gore doesn't purchase carbon offsets with his own resources, and that they are meaningless in terms of global warming.
The offset purchases are actually made for him by Generation Investment Management, a London-based investment firm that Mr. Gore co-founded, and which provides carbon offsets as a fringe benefit to all 23 of its employees, ensuring that they require no real sacrifice on the part of Mr. Gore or his family.
Mr. Gore has called the campaign to combat global warming a "moral imperative." But Mr. Gore faces another imperative: to square his sales pitches with the facts and his personal lifestyle to more align with what he advocates that others practice. "Are you ready to change the way you live?" asks Mr. Gore's film. It's time people ask Mr. Gore "Are you ready to change the way you live, as well as the way you lecture the rest of us?"