Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Would you trust the planet to your credit card company?

Your credit card company spends most of its time trying to figure out ways to get more money out of you. Every time I find a mistake, I call to correct them and am treated like a criminal. By the time the mistake is corrected, myself and the CSR are so exhausted from the experience, there are no apologies and only curt goodbyes.

Frankly, I don't trust my credit card company to "do the right thing" unless I'm watching them like a hawk. So would you trust your credit card company with the planet? Me, neither.

But GE thinks you will with their new ecofriendly credit card. I hope someone got a raise when they came up with this idea; "Let's take away people's rebates, encourage them to charge even more on the card, and make them feel good about it!"

So where will your former 1% go?

earmark that amount for projects that reduce greenhouse gases

The whole idea comes from the ridiculous notion that you can buy "carbon footprints". I love these buzzwords! If you are wondering what a carbon footprint is, check out this article. I previously wrote about calculating your carbon footprint. But taking efforts to reduce your carbon footprint is one thing. Buying "credits" to offset your footprint is quite another.

How? In the GE plan:

G.E. will keep a running tally of the amounts, and each Earth Day it will use the total to buy offsets of greenhouse gas emissions. The offsets will be purchased by GE AES Greenhouse Gas Services, a joint venture between GE Energy Financial Services and the AES Corporation, a power company.

So your former cashback rebate ends up buying credits from this company called AES. How exactly this helps is unclear, but GE claims if you spend $750 a month you offset the greenhouse gases of an average person per year. The terms and conditions available do not say either, but they promise to send you more information if you sign up for the card. Gee, thanks. Some information about the AES/GE program ia available if you are curious.

GE AES Greenhouse Gas Services is a joint venture between The AES Corporation and GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of GE. The venture will produce scientifically verified greenhouse gas credits in the United States and market them to companies that want to reduce the environmental impact of their operations or provide environmentally friendly products or services

So as I understand it, you forfeit your rebate, the money GE doesn't give to you it converts to these "credits", which this GGS venture (sells? turns over?) gives to power plants, chemical companies, and other industries that kill the planet in the name of producing cheaper iPods and cars.

I'm still confused, so I go on to the GE-AES website. Finally I found a document that gives some idea of what "projects" my rebate is going to "fund". These projects include: methane gas capture, industrial gas destruction, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and reforestation.

This is all well and good, but I'd be willing to bet you could make a better impact by keeping your rebate, putting it in a high yield savings account to earn interest, and making a charitable donation to the eco-friendly project of your choice. Plus, you'd get a tax deduction. Really, GE isn't doing anything for you that you can't do better with an hour of your time once a year.

Frankly, I don't trust GE financial to properly manage my donation (and that's exactly what this is, a charitable donation for which you do not get to claim). This is the same industry that increased my interest rates because my "spending habits changed" that seemed to indicate "more risk associated with my account." Translation: I stopped carrying balances.

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