Say you’re a chemical company, but say you have a conscience. You’d like to be a little greener, but really, your carbon footprint is grizzly size. Now there’s a way to have it all.
It’s a bit of an abstract concept, but it goes like this: You pay extra money toward your energy bill every month. The extra money, called a green tag, goes towards the development of green technology—photovoltaics, wind power and the like—and this, in theory, offsets part of your pollution. NorthWestern Energy already has such a program, offering customers an opportunity to get behind the environmental benefits associated with renewable energy generated in the Northwest and Wyoming. The city of Missoula would like to take the program a step further. By selling the green tags directly, the municipality could take 10 percent of the proceeds and reinvest the money in green projects at home. The city’s volunteer Greenhouse Gas Subcommittee estimates the revenue at $64,000 annually by 2013, funding projects as ambitious as a wind turbine on Mount Sentinel, or as simple as helping residents winterize their houses. However, if there is no direct benefit to Missoula residents, some members of council say they will have difficulty supporting it.
“The bottom line is that it’s a cost to the city and even if it’s a cost in kind, there’s also a cost to promote it if it goes,” says Council member Jon Wilkins. “We as taxpayers pay for things because we’re going to get something out of it, and I don’t see where we as taxpayers get anything out of this.”
It’s a little too early in the discussion to answer such questions with any specificity, says Conservation Committee Chair Marilyn Marler. “We’ve got this greenhouse gas committee and we’ve asked them to do all this work and we’ve got no funding for them,” she explains. “So however the committee thinks we could meet the energy conservation goals, we’d like to hear from them.” But Marler says she agrees with Wilkins on the substance.
“I think it’s not worth doing the program unless it benefits everyday Missoulians. I like Jon Wilkins’ idea of having a revolving loan fund or small grants for people to winterize,” she says. “It would be nice to do some of those programs regardless of the funding source.”