Trend: General Electric sets a standard for carbon credits in the United States.
Joel Makower describes the new General Electric Earth Rewards credit card, aimed at reducing cardholders' carbon emissions. Excerpts below.
...Earth Rewards is GE Money's contribution to GE's overall goal of making money by helping its customers become cleaner and more efficient.
The Earth Rewards card will invest 1% of consumer purchases made with the card in carbon offset projects. (Consumers can opt to get a half-percent cash back, in which case only one-half percent of their purchases will fund offsets.) The company isn't claiming that the card will necessarily render purchases "carbon neutral," though its promotional material explains that an average consumer charging $750 per month on an Earth Rewards card -- that's $9,000 a year in purchases -- would offset all of the emissions he or she is likely to produce in a year.
The launch of the card is accompanied by the release of a standard for carbon credits in the United States. The standard, which will be used by GE's joint venture with AES Corp. to develop and sell carbon credits, aims to ensure that the offsets purchased by GE on behalf of its credit card customers "are scientifically verified and provide a positive, measurable environmental benefit," in the words of the company. AES and GE plan to generate 10 million metric tons of greenhouse gas credits annually by 2010, some of which will be purchased by GE itself on behalf of its Earth Rewards customers.
According to GE:
If 100,000 cardholders spend $750 per month, the annual offsets retired would total approximately one million metric tons, equivalent to removing more than 175,000 cars from American roads for one year. If those 100,000 cardholders receive their statements electronically, they could save more than 50,000 pounds of paper, sparing 600 trees and more than 500,000 gallons of wastewater associated with paper production collectively.