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Market News

 May 05, 2007
What's online; How Clean Is Your Carbon Credit?

 CARBON credits are advertised as a way for polluters to offset the greenhouse gases they produce. Just write a check, and someone else will reduce his emissions, so you can keep driving your Hummer or operating your coal-burning power plant without guilt.

Of course, it is not that easy. Even some environmentalists oppose carbon credits because, they say, offsets tend to give the impression that global warming is being solved.

Worse, reports of fraud and abuse are piling up. Most recently, an investigation by The Financial Times found that companies and individuals ''rushing to go green have been spending millions on 'carbon credit' projects that yield few if any environmental benefits'' (ft.com).

The newspaper's environment correspondent, Fiona Harvey, wrote of ''widespread failings in the new markets for greenhouse gases, suggesting some organizations are paying for emissions reductions that do not take place.'' In other cases, organizations profit by selling credits for environmental projects they would have undertaken anyway.

Francis Sullivan, the environment adviser for the banking giant HSBC, said: ''The police, the fraud squad and trading standards need to be looking into this. Otherwise people will lose faith in it.''

Besides 16 articles examining just about every aspect of carbon trading and its problems, the package also includes an interactive graphic detailing carbon-reduction projects around the world, an online chat with Ms. Harvey, a video interview with her and a guide to navigating the world of carbon credits.

Some bloggers who oppose initiatives to reduce carbon emissions piled on, most of them making sure to mention Al Gore, whom The Financial Times does not even mention. Upon reading the newspaper series, Noel Sheppard of NewsBusters wondered, ''Will Media Report Global Warming 'Carbon Credit' Fraud?'' (newsbusters.org).

Bryan Preston of the Hot Air blog, run by Michelle Malkin, characterized the investigation as proving that carbon credits are ''nothing but a scam'' (hotair.com).

The series says no such thing, but Ms. Harvey does caution that if you are going to buy carbon credits, ''you have to do lots of homework first.''

GRAPHIC DEPICTIONS -- Some things are easier to understand in pictures than words. Take, for instance, the tangle of relationships among current and former directors of the News Corporation and Dow Jones. The former company made a surprise $5 billion bid for the latter this week.

A narrative explanation of the relationships might read: Vernon Jordan sits on the Dow Jones board, as well as the American Express board, where he joins Peter Chernin, the News Corporation's president. And so on.

NewsVisuals simplifies matters by presenting a graphic that makes the connections easy to grasp. It connects six principals of Dow Jones with four of the News Corporation's, with five companies in between (newsvisual.com).

And that's nothing. This week, the site featured a graphic of the relationships of just two men -- the media mogul Barry Diller and the financier Nelson Peltz -- that looks like the wiring schematic for the space shuttle.

$67 MILLION PANTS -- Roy Pearson has sued his dry cleaner for losing his pants in 2005, seeking damages of $67 million.

By DAN MITCHELL