UK.gov torpedoes personal carbon credit plans
'Not a universally desirable outcome' - no, really?
Most people probably wouldn't bother, and the billions spent on smartcards, readers, markets, etc, would be largely wasted.
Then, the few people who were interested and carried on doing the scheme would probably not be rational traders. For instance, a right-on environment lover would very probably be an obsessive carbo-smartcard user, trying as hard as possible to reduce his or her personal carbon burden and be the most virtuous kid on the block. Such a person might well reach the point at which they could only use less carbon by installing a rooftop wind turbine, which would reduce carbon emissions at a cost of £400 per tonne of CO2 not emitted.
A fanatic might go ahead and do that; but in fact this would not be helpful. In terms of the personal carbon market it would represent "irrational trading".
A far better thing to do, from the point of both the UK economy and the environment, would be to bribe one's neighbours not to drive to the shops but take the bus instead. This might cost £20 per tonne of CO2 saved, so the righteous green hardliner could either save a lot more carbon by bribing more neighbours, or save the same as the microgeneration kit would have and still have cash to spend - perhaps on something carbon-righteous like a new plasma TV (no, really*, plasma TVs are OK).
In this way the UK would still save carbon but wouldn't economically cripple itself buying fantastically inefficient rooftop windmills.
Of course, the truly carbo-virtuous might have trouble getting anyone to talk to them about taking the bus to the shops, having skipped so many baths and put unwashed clothes back on so many times*.
Another weakness of the carbon-trading scheme is that it would probably fail to penalise many of these supposedly "low-carbon" individuals for the high greenhouse burden associated with their probable diet of lentils, soybeans and similar pulses. (It is of course well known that methane, an inevitable byproduct of such culinary habits, is a far more potent greehouse gas than CO2 itself. And yes, we know that eating meat means cows farting all over the shop - no need to write in. Our own diet is largely composed of highly carbon efficient biofuel-like liquid food).
All in all, the gov seem to have got this one right. Read much more from DEFRA here, if you've a mind to. ®
*There is a perception at the moment that reducing carbon burden in the home might be a matter of switching tellies off standby or generally eschewing the use of evil "gadgets".
A nice big plasma TV on standby uses less than 1 watt of 'leccy. In use, this rises to 400-odd watts. A fairly ordinary steam iron often draws 2,400 watts; you'd save as much juice by not doing 20 minutes of ironing as by switching your TV off at the wall for a month. The washing machine probably runs at 3kW. Skip three loads of laundry, keep your telly on standby for a year and you've still used less electricity. Etc, etc.
The big power hogs in your home - and thus the big carbon squirters, unless you live in nuclear-powered France and don't use gas - are the bath or shower, the washing machine, the heating, the fridge, and the cooker. You can probably chill out about the gadgets.