In contrast, it could cost New England Electric less than $2 a ton to offset a ton of emissions with improved logging in Malaysia, according to some experts.
The value of such international pollution-offset schemes has been debated by environmentalists and economists. Many question the ability of a U.S. utility to enforce a long-term agreement outside U.S. jurisdiction. Others are concerned that utilities might reap benefits in the United States for supporting risky overseas deals even after they collapse.
"We are not opposed theoretically to doing deals overseas--in fact, we are very supportive," says Alice Leblanc, a staff economist with the Environmental Defense Fund.
"But there are definitely risks," Leblanc says. "Deals like this will help iron out some of the problems."
Which is partly why New England Electric chose to work with Innoprise.
"They have conservation areas that have attracted scientific participation--foresters from literally all over the world come there to do research . . . so there is a great deal of data," says Calvert.
In the deal announced Monday, New England Electric will contribute about $450,000 and arrange for technical exchanges with forestry experts from Sweden, Australia and elsewhere.
Innoprise will provide forest personnel, facilities and training programs.
The idea of offsets has had one previous test, with mixed results.
In 1989, Applied Energy Services, an Arlington, Va.-based utility, paid $2 million to help CARE, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Peace Corps plant 52 million trees in Guatemala--to offset emissions from a new coal-burning plant in Connecticut.
While CARE officials think that the project is generally on track, the tree planting has not gone as fast as many had hoped. The utility company has apparently expressed concern, while technicians in the field have reminded it that such rural-improvement projects are more than a simple matter of planting trees.
"It's a matter of educating the utility company to the farmers' needs, as well as educating the farmers," says Kim Johnston, CARE deputy manager for Latin America.
Better Logging, Better Air A unique pilot project between the New England Electric System Co. and a Malaysian forest products company will try to counter the so-called greenhouse effect. The project hopes toincrease carbon dioxide absorption in a tropical hardwood forest to help offset CO2 emissions from the utilities. It will also allow Third World loggers to improve tree harvest in an environmentally sound and sustainable way. If successful, the techniques-termed reduced impact logging-could be applied in many parts of the world. Improved logging techniques will slow the release of carbon dioxide from decomposing non-commerical trees left lying in the forest and enhance regrowth-all of which increases the ability of trees to absorb CO2 during photosynthesis. In this first experiment, foresters hope to remove 300,000 to 600,000 tons of CO2 over the three years of the experiment. New England's Electric's fossil-fuel burning electric power sources annually emit 15 million tons of carbon dioxide, a gas blamed for global warming. Directional felling: Trees are brought down so accurately that they destroy only a small amount of surrounding forest. Vine cutting: Vines, which can bring down surrounding trees, are trimmed before logging. Improved planning to reduce the number of roads and staging areas. Better preservation of forest water quality by lowering harvest damage around streams and reducing erosion. Innopise Corp., a forest products company in Sabah, Malaysia, currently destroys about 50% of the forest to harvest 10% of the trees. With new techniques, they hope to lower the destruction by 20% to 50%