PG&E: greedy or green?

Is PG&E’s ClimateSmart program a viable means of actually reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, or just another bit of opportunistic graft by which PG&E can line its pockets?

Good one. Always question authority. Well, almost always. We all know there’s no need to ever question Al Gore or Jerry Brown or the writers at or the guy who sells me biodiesel each week. That would be social suicide. But PG&E hasn’t always been a green scenester. Still, their new ClimateSmart program appears noble. And their promise to invest 100 percent of the cost of your greenhouse-gas emissions into projects that reduce or absorb those emissions means there’s nothing left over to line their pockets with.

PG&E plans to measure your business or household’s GHG output, put a price on sin, tack that amount onto your monthly bill and invest it into a GHG-reduction projects. They’ll conserve C02-absorbing forests or manage livestock manure to reduce methane emissions, for starters. From a climate-crisis perspective, any carbon offsets are better than no carbon offsets, so investing solely in California-based GHG-reduction programs is better than not investing in any GHG-reduction programs. From an environmental-justice perspective, PG&E might be wise to look into additional GHG-reduction projects near its out-of-state electricity generating stations.

And from your skeptic’s perspective, you can rest assured that once you settle comfortably into that extra five bucks a month on your energy bill, PG&E’s authority will be continually questioned by outside organizations. The California Climate Action Registry must approve all GHG-reduction projects, and the whole program will be watch-dogged by the ClimateSmart External Advisory Committee, a group of environmental saints, like Jared Blumenfeld of San Francisco’s Department on the Environment and Peter Miller of the Natural Resources Defense Council. You know, the kind of green scenesters I’d never question.