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Carbon cap unlikely to stifle retail consumer demand for voluntary carbon offsets

BOONE – Retail demand for voluntary carbon offsets will likely remain strong even if regulations place a national limit on greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recent survey conducted by researchers with the Appalachian State University Energy Center, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks’s School of Management and Environmental Credit Corp (ECC).

The nationwide survey, conducted during late 2009, asked individuals who buy retail carbon offsets about their purchases, their opinion on the environmental impacts of climate change, and how economic and environmental outcomes resulting from national greenhouse gas policy may affect their participation in the retail market for voluntary carbon offsets.

A carbon offset is a method consumers can use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, an individual can purchase carbon offsets from a retailer to reduce the emissions associated with their vacation –including carbon emissions from airline or vehicle travel. The ‘purchase’ helps finance renewable energy, waste management and agriculture projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Consumers who purchase retail carbon offsets clearly understand the simple fact that using carbon-based energy releases greenhouse gases and results in environmental impacts that are cause for concern,” said Jason Hoyle, a researcher at the Appalachian State University Energy Center.

Survey results reveal a positive outlook for retailers of voluntary carbon offsets, even if a cap is placed on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. If severe environmental impacts are projected to result from climate change, then about two-thirds of those surveyed would continue to purchase voluntary carbon offsets in the retail market even if regulations increased their household energy expenditures by as much as 25 percent.

“This survey’s unique insight into the motivations and preferences of retail offset consumers is not only valuable, but also highly encouraging to companies that specialize in developing and marketing carbon offsets to these consumers,” said Hugh Whalan, business developer at Environmental Credit Corp. ECC works with diverse markets to create carbon offsets from the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

“This survey presents some very timely and relevant information as the U.S. Senate begins its consideration of the American Energy Act. For years, consumers have been voting with their wallets on the need to address climate change.  It is important for the public to see that there are households out there that believe so highly in the benefits of offset projects and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States,” said Derek Six, portfolio manager at ECC.

The survey is online at www.envcc.com/images/pdf/retailcarbonoffsetsurvey2009.pdf.

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