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🌳 "The Growing Market of Not Cutting Down Trees"

The Journal

Photo by Artur Łuczka / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Kate Linebaugh
Guest: Ryan Dezember | Reporter | The Wall Street Journal
Category: 🌳 Carbon Capture

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[3:40] “[To figure out how much carbon trees hold], you're not going to measure every tree. That would be prohibitively expensive and take forever. So what they do is they divide the land up […] into different ecosystems and […] sort of survey what's there. Then a computer will determine how many trees and where you need to measure it to be statistically significant. And the computer will pick these points, and then a trained forester will have to find those […] GPS coordinates. Then they measure the big trees and they literally wrap a tape measure around it and see how big it is. And in that market, a 10th of an inch matters. They'll use a little laser device to see how […] tall the trees are. And it's very expensive and it could take them a week or two weeks […] to do all the measuring.”

[4:52] “I've spoken to owners, large and small. Basically the math just works. They could make more money selling carbon offsets, managing their woods […] by leaving the tree standing and managing them for the carbon market. And it was as simple as that. They might feel good about what they're doing, but that doesn't really […] play into their decision.”

[7:22] “When you see a big company say they're going to be carbon neutral by 2050 or […] carbon negative by 2030, and they say these goals related to climate change, that's what's driving this market. Those promises to reduce emissions and make up for those that they cannot reduce. An oil company and an airline, they can't get rid of all their emissions and all their pollution. So they look for things that will make a negative number on these carbon balance sheets. […] So really it's the big companies that are driving this because they have sort of the extra money to throw into this business, which is not required by any regulators.”

[8:38] “We hear a lot about ESG investors. That's a huge mountain of money that's generally going toward companies that are perceived to be green or at least cleaning up their environmental act. And that's prompted a rush for standing trees to show investors that they're making progress or trying to make progress toward these goals of polluting a lot less and making up for the pollution that they cannot do without.”

[9:22] “A lot of landowners are […] saying, I'm going to get a really low price for my trees. I'll sign up for this program and I'll get a check. You don't sell the trees. You don't sell the actual land, you still own that and you can still log to a degree and do things like sell hunting leases and camping […]. But you can't cut so many that the carbon stored in those woods declines. It has to be increasing over time. So you basically, you look at those two markets and you just make that decision.”

[10:51] “There are companies out there that are endeavoring to use satellites and computers. There [is] artificial intelligence and machine learning to replace the boots on the ground. Foresters have to go out and do these very precise measurements of trees by using satellite imagery to size up the trees and tell you how many trees there are, how big they are, how much they've grown over time. And the thinking is that by doing that and removing a lot of the upfront costs, you can start doing smaller and smaller tracts of woods.”

[11:24] “One of the most common criticisms is […] [that] you pay a small fee, a sort of insignificant tax, so that you can feel good about behaving in the same way that you always did. We feel good about paying for this forest to be preserved, and that will allow us to keep driving our cars on the highway as much as we do and burning as much fossil fuel as we do. And not really changing the habits that really need to change to really address the problem. […] You can sort of drill down also and say, it's great that a big oil company is paying a landowner to manage their forest in a way that accumulates carbon and makes sure that trees stay standing for 100 more years. […] It's usually more the problem of what credit they get for making that happen. And does that truly absolve them from carrying on business that generates pollution.”

[12:46] “The other thing too, these companies we're talking about […] are some of the largest companies in the world. For them, a few million dollars to do a carbon offset project, they get a lot of marketing value out of this. It might not be much more off their balance sheet than if they ran a bunch of ads in magazines and on TV. That's the criticism. Small businesses aren't going to be able to fund a project that starts out with a six figure startup cost so that they can offset some of the emissions created by their business.”

Rating: ⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 16 min | 🗓️ 08/23/2021
✅ Time saved: 14 min