October 23, 1998 | By: Randy Weckman

Economist and entrepreneur Richard Sandor sees a new industry for the nation's farmers: environmentalists in the quest to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Atmospheric carbon is alleged to be responsible for global warming due to a buildup of greenhouse gases.

Sandor, chairman of the board of Hedge Financial and vice chairman of the Chicago Board of Trade, presented a symposium sponsored by the agriculture society Gamma Sigma Delta. He said that agricultural practices commonly used in growing crops remove carbon from the air and "fix" it so that it will no longer threaten the world's climate through global warming.

He noted that in the past two centuries, use of fuels including fossil fuels and wood have removed carbon from the earth and released it into the air, in the form of greenhouse gas. Plants, through photosynthesis, remove atmospheric carbon from the air and bind it into plant tissues.

The economist's vision includes allowing factories with emission levels higher than allowed by federal guidelines to pay farmers to grow crops that will tie up enough carbon from the atmosphere to offset their pollution levels.

Such a program, he claimed, would benefit both farmers and factories. Farmers would be paid by the industry to use best management practices. At the same time, factories whose carbon emissions are too high could continue operations without immediate modification.

Sandor's idea of using markets to facilitate reduction in carbon emissions is an outgrowth

of the U.S. government's acceptance of a proposal by Sandor and others to cut sulfur dioxide omissions in the late 1980s by auctioning sulfur dioxide emission allowances.

As a result of the proposal, new power plants have incentives to use technologies that emit levels of sulfur dioxide that are below federal standards. And markets now developing to trade sulfur dioxide emissions are allowing power plants with older, less efficient equipment to pay newer plants to offset their level of sulfur dioxide emissions.

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Writer: Randy Weckman
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