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Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

I’m as talented at doing nothing as the next man. Now, I find this innate facility may be lucrative.

A set of articles in the Christian Science Monitor has shown how idleness can be profitable – through the marketing of carbon offset credits. The articles included discussion of the carbon credit kiosks installed at San Francisco International Airport by the firm 3Degrees.

In the past I have written that only a sucker would patronize such an enterprise. Now, I find I must apologize, for the Monitor explained that each $13.50 paid to 3Degrees to offset a ton of carbon is “sent to two environmental groups … for a promise not to cut trees” on land those organizations already own.

The news magazine went on: “The groups estimate how much carbon would be lost if they opened their California forest to logging, and they sell that amount as an ‘offset.’” Other firms highlighted in the Monitor package sell carbon-offsets that are at least as nebulous.

And to think I had wondered if the carbon-credit racket was … a racket. In fact, it is economic and environmental genius. You help guilt-ridden consumers salve their consciences by doing nothing, a skill I possess in abundance.

In a carbon-credit enterprise, for virtually zero capital outlay, you derive an income you can use to start the economy rolling again. You can use these funds to buy new clothing, purchase a new car, build a new house next door to Al Gore – bigger even than Al’s palace. And if you’re worried that your outlays have increased your carbon footprint, you can just buy some carbon offsets from yourself (for not cutting down trees on your new estate).

It did not take long to recognize this was the business for me. I would never employ this column to solicit funds, but if you wish to take the initiative and ease your mind about personal carbon consumption, I will happily sell you offsets at the price per ton your conscience dictates. (In fact, “conscience” is an appropriately metaphysical term, as this business is akin to the sale of religious indulgences.)

Your dollars will be exchanged for carbon offsets from any of my new enterprises. The menu of your choices includes:

  • Ackley Power and Light: I will offset your carbon consumption by not building coal-fired electricity generating plants. The number of plants I will not build will expand to meet the demand for offsets.
  • Ackley Environmental Trucking: I promise neither to purchase nor sell diesel trucks. You may specify whether I should not purchase or sell a GMC, a Peterbilt, etc.
  • Ackley Forest Products: I pledge not to clear the forest behind my home. You can almost hear those trees sucking up CO2.
  • Ackley Petroleum Services Inc.: I will not sell drilling equipment to any of the big oil companies. (You may select from a catalog of piping, drill bits and other tools.)
  • Ackley International Airlines: I will cancel plans to acquire and fly a fleet of intercontinental airliners. (In fact, I will cancel new plans every week, making the benefits of all these companies self-sustaining.)
  • Ackley PedCo.: I will walk somewhere instead of jumping into the car and driving.
  • Finally, I’m offering offsets through the purchase of shares in Ackley BridgeCo. When adequately capitalized, BridgeCo. will buy and shut down the pollution generating Brooklyn Bridge – and you can own a piece of it!

I won’t be a trend setter in the carbon offset business, but I think any of my predecessors would be proud of my corporate motto: “To ease your conscience, we’ll stop at nothing.”



That Arizona law: My alma mater continues to decay intellectually. Latest evidence (as of 15 minutes ago) was the determination of a score of students to hold a hunger strike to protest Arizona’s enforcement of immigration law.

Before they return to the dinner table, the students say, the university must oppose Arizona’s law, drop plans to discipline students who occupied a campus building, rehire janitors laid off due to budget cuts, and make the campus a sanctuary for immigration lawbreakers. They also want a “task force” to assure “undocumented” students get the same services as legal students.

The great spiritual leader Cesar Chavez made effective use of the hunger strike to help bring California grape growers to the bargaining table some 40 years ago. It worked because people understood the concept of collective bargaining rights. The concept of legal rights for immigration lawbreakers will be a much harder sell.


Quote of the month comes from Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who told CNN, “We can’t survive without people thinking well of us, because our business is a confidence business.”

Just like three-card monte and the pigeon drop.

Blankfein’s favorite movie has to be “The Sting.”

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