Carbon-neutral boating: pay at the pump

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Organizer of the first ‘green’ fishing tournament wants all boaters to reduce their carbon footprint

Organizer of the first ‘green’ fishing tournament wants all boaters to reduce their carbon footprint

Florida marinas may spearhead a national campaign to persuade boaters to voluntarily pay a little more for their fuel to buy “climate mitigation credits.”

Dan Kipnis, director of the first carbon-neutral fishing tournament, wants to enlist Florida marinas in a program that would enable boaters to voluntarily buy the credits at the pump to offset greenhouse gas emissions from their boat’s engine.

“A dime for the environment when you’re buying a gallon of fuel is not that much,” says Kipnis, of Miami, director of 15 fishing tournaments, including The Sailfish Tournament, the country’s first to tout itself as “carbon-neutral.”

The extra dime a gallon (actually about 8 cents for gasoline and 11 cents for diesel, Kipnis says) would go to large-scale farm operations to pay for capturing methane from livestock waste and converting it to generating electricity.

Methane burns cleanly, but before it burns it is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Kipnis says he and his partners – Environmental Defense, the National Wildlife Federation and Florida Wildlife Federation – want to bring Florida dairies and marinas together in this program, using the credits purchased by boaters to pay dairies to capture and burn the methane.

Called “The Green Button Project,” it is envisioned as a nationwide program, says Jerry Karnas, Florida climate project director for New York-based Environmental Defense.

“We’re setting up a pilot project in Florida,” he says. Boaters would just “press the green button” at the pump and add a few cents per gallon for mitigation credits.

Diesel powered recreational boats produce about 3.64 million tons of CO2 a year and gasoline-powered ones 17.3 million tons, for a total 20 million tons of CO2.

If even a quarter of boaters signed on to the program, their extra payments at the pump could offset 5 million tons of CO2 released into the air.

“This could have a major impact,” he says.

Green Button says it is seeking support of industry and angler organizations, including the National Marine Manufacturers Association, American Sportfishing Association, Association of Marina Industries, Coastal Conservation Association, The Billfish Foundation and International Game Fish Association, and some government entities such as the Clean Marina Program and Sea Grant.

Kipnis expects that Florida marinas will be selling credits by January 2009.

Merrill-Stevens Shipyard in Miami, one of 23 “environmental sponsors” that helped buy mitigation credits for Kipnis’ carbon-neutral tournament,is keen on encouraging innovative ideas for rescuing the environment, says shipyard spokesman Mark Bailey. The yard is undertaking a $30 million upgrade and expansion that will include new filtering systems for run-off and solar energy panels on sheds. “The new owners [Hugh and Carole Shields Westbrook, former principals in VITAS Healthcare Corp.] and the existing executive team all recognize that this is an important issue,” Bailey says. “The environment is so integrally tied to what we do here … This is possibly not the first item on the yachting community’s agenda, but we think it will be and it should be.”

Green Button will administer the climate mitigation credits through AgCert, an international company with local offices in Melbourne, Fla., which transfers mitigation funds to the dairy farms for methane recapture.

Eventually Kipnis hopes Green Button can expand to landside service stations.

He says he already buys carbon credits online for about $2 a fill-up for his car. “I buy the credits once a year and pay about $100 for 50 fill-ups,” he says. “It helps with my guilt feelings. I have an SUV.”

He says he needs it for his tournament work.