MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Some invested in carbon credits to offset their pollution, but as legislation stalled, the value of those credits has dropped, in some cases dramatically. Iowa Public Radio's Sarah McCammon reports.
SARAH MCCAMMON: Here on his southern Iowa farm on a cloudy day, he's feeding the young steers he keeps in a pen near his farmhouse. Caldenberg is in his late 30s, and he grew up farming around here. Sure, he raises corn and soybeans, but he also raises carbon credits, although lately he's not sure why.
TIM CALDENBERG: In the beginning, it was enough to go out for supper maybe. Well, it's probably less than that now. I could go out for supper now, as long it was a drive-thru, fast food maybe.
MCCAMMON: Back in mid-2008, when there was a lot of optimism that Congress would do that, the value of those credits peaked at more than $7 a ton. Now, they're only worth a dime.
LENNY HOCHSCHILD: If you put all of your eggs in the Chicago Climate Exchange, and you didn't decide to sell anything when you could've had the opportunity to, then I would say at this stage, it's probably difficult.
MCCAMMON: The global carbon market is now worth $125 billion, though much of that market is in Europe. The United States' share is still tiny, but Hochschild remains optimistic.
HOCHSCHILD: I don't think there's one commodity that exists out there that has grown as fast as the carbon markets.
MCCAMMON: Some regional authorities in California and the Northeast are taking steps to regulate carbon emissions on their own, but with so much uncertainty about what Congress will do, it's unclear which offsets will count in the future. Matthew Hamilton(ph) is the sustainability manager for Aspen Skiing Company, a member of the Chicago Climate Exchange.
MATTHEW HAMILTON: It really is the Wild West right now. You can go out and buy a product, a renewable energy credit or a carbon credit, and it is only as good as the rules that are attached to that credit.
MCCAMMON: For NPR News, I'm Sarah McCammon in Des Moines.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.