Industrial giant General Electric (GE) last week introduced a new credit card that encourages consumers to offset the greenhouse gas emissions caused by their spending through the purchase of carbon offsets with reward points. The GE Money Earth Rewards Platinum MasterCard allows cardholders to put a one percent cash rebate on purchases towards projects that help mitigate global warming.
While GE has prioritized pro-environment projects since 2005, it is also known as one of the world’s worst polluters historically. As such, environmentalists have mixed feelings about the new credit card.
"It’s ironic," says Michael J. Brune of the nonprofit Rainforest Action Network. "GE supplies parts for coal-fired plants, so its credit card offsets emissions it helps create."
But others welcome the move as a step in the right direction. "Using a credit card is a frequent activity and anything that raises awareness of carbon offsetting is a good idea," says Mark Armitage of the Carbon Neutral Company, an organization that helps companies and individuals offset their greenhouse gas emissions.
But whether analysts like it or not, they had better get used to the concept. Bank of America, the nation’s second-largest bank, has announced plans to launch a similar carbon offset credit card later this year, and it’s only a matter of time before other financial institutions follow suit.