Smokestack Lightning

Online Trade in Greenhouse Gases Strikes Environment

The result of the online market for greenhouse gas emissions may well be that profit trumps public health and environmental concerns once again. Trading the right to pollute online is not the same as trading limited-edition Barbies on eBay. Nor is it the same as other business-to-business exchanges for industrial or corporate goods. The commodity here is public property—public health, the ozone layer, climatic stability. If the Kyoto Protocol is ratified by Congress—and that's a stretch of the imagination—greenhouse gases may well grow to be the next megabucks market. But at what cost to the environment?

The corporate motivation: buy low, pollute high
illustration: Limbert Fabian
The corporate motivation: buy low, pollute high

"In any market economy, you have winners and losers," says Cole. "What you're creating here is a whole other market scheme. And we know who the losers are going to be."

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