I recently have been talking to farm groups about how farmers can generate and sell carbon credits by building up carbon in their soils. I always start this discussion by explaining that a carbon credit can be generated for each additional metric tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) that a farmer can cause to be stored (sequestered) in soil. For reference, one metric tonne is 2,205 lbs. or about as a really small car. A Fiat 500, for example, weighs about 2,300 lbs without a driver. So how much C02 is generated by typical human activities?

The EPA states that an average passenger vehicle generates 4.6 tonnes of C02 per year. If you want to be more accurate, you can visit the EPA’s website. My old 1999 Toyota Landcruiser generates 9.9 tonnes per year; a new 2022 Ford F-150 generates 6.8 tonnes; and a Toyota Prius generates 2.6 tonnes (assuming 15,000 miles/year mixed highway/city driving). So to offset the emissions from these fossil fuel burning vehicles, you could purchase the equivalent number of carbon credits from a reputable source. I would need to buy 9.9 carbon credits to offset the emissions from my Land Cruiser for one year. One takeaway here is that newer machines are often far more efficient than old ones (new F150 is also more powerful than my old Landcruiser).

The last time I purchased a flight, I had the option of purchasing an offset for the airplane “tailpipe” emissions. According to American Airlines, my 10-12 hours of travel roundtrip from Indianapolis, Indiana, to Raleigh, North Carolina would generate 1.89 Tonnes of C02. To put that in perspective, that single round trip ticket was nearly the same as driving a Toyota Prius for an entire year.

The American Airlines offset also put a price on what it would cost to buy a carbon credit today. The cost on the American website was $7.60 per Tonne. To buy offsets for the roundtrip ticket is $14.36. The cost to offset the Prius for an entire year is $19.76.

This had me wondering how much CO2 farm equipment produces. Fortunately, New Holland has a calculator that allows you to roughly estimate CO2 emissions from tractors. A modern 300 hp Tier 4 tractor operated for 200 hour per year would generate 51,950 lbs of CO2. That equals 23.5 metric Tonnes per year. (An older tractor is much worse). A farmer with the modern tractor could offset his or her emissions by purchasing 23.5 carbon credits for $179.06 (at today’s price).

So what does this all mean? First, airplane emissions are enormous when compared to diesel and gasoline powered vehicles. Second, from an environmental standpoint, decreasing CO2 produced is just as important as sequestering existing CO2. While many companies are willing to pay farmers to sequester carbon in soil, similar offsets could be achieved by paying farmers to upgrade their equipment to more efficient models.

If someone is willing to pay me to replace my old Landcruiser, please contact me at the number below.