Not Easy Being Green

It's not easy being green. Just ask former Vice President Al Gore.

While the newly anointed Oscar winner has made what Katie Couric called a "triumphant return" to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Gore was tripped up by a simple question from Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe. Late into the hearing, Inhofe showed Gore a clip from his film, "An Inconvenient Truth." The clip challenged the audience with this question: "Are you ready to change the way you live?"

Simple enough. But Inhofe took this question a step further, by placing it right at the foot of the former vice president. Correctly noting that Gore is adored by hundreds of thousands for his green message, Inhofe asked the Tennessee Democrat if he'd be willing to pledge to "consume no more energy for use in your residence than the average American household by one year from today?"

It was a "gotcha" moment, and one that was not widely reported in the mainstream media. Gore refused to take the pledge, adding that, "we live a carbon-neutral life."

Get ready to hear a lot about carbon-neutral living in the days and months ahead. It's the new euphemism for Escalade-driving environmentalists who "purchase" carbon credits to assuage any guilt about their private jets and 20,000 square foot summer homes.

In fact there is a $100 million dollar bull market in such credits — and it’s growing, with for-profit companies such as TerraPass, selling credits that give wealthy Americans a "pass" when it comes to actually cutting down on their own carbon consumption. The idea is so hot that several business schools have begun programs in environmental finance.

How do these carbon offsets actually work? Well, like a charm if you're in the business of buying your way out of looking like a hypocrite. And, if you're actually sincere about protecting the environment — well, the jury's out on that one.

In theory, these carbon credits could have a positive effect on the planet, by encouraging companies to cash-in on environmentally friendly practices by "selling" their credits to gas-guzzling greenies and the like. But a recent study by Businessweek shows that, in many cases, the environmental changes that resulted in companies earning these carbon offsets were just sound business moves, and had nothing to do with being environmentally friendly. As was the case with a huge garbage dump in Arkansas — the carbon credits were just a fortunate coincidence of decisions made by its owner, Waste Management, years ago. Other schemes were just that — a lot of hot air.

Yet Gore and the other greenies seem to be sleeping well at night, content that all of this paper shuffling allows them to live in carbon neutral bliss. What power these little credits possess — conferring upon their owners the right to consume carbon with abandon, while enjoying the moral high ground to lecture to the rest of us to cut back on energy.

Could Kermit have it wrong? Maybe it is easy being green after all.

Terry Keenan is anchor of Cashin’ In and is a FOX News Channel business correspondent. Tune in to Cashin' In on Saturdays at 11:30am and find out what you need to know to make your money grow and keep what you already have!