Since the 1930's, Louisiana has lost over 2,000 square miles to coastal erosion - an area larger than the state of Delaware. Stabilizing the remaining marshlands requires massive projects, such as plantings, erosion control structures and mass plantings, but more than anything it requires masses of money.
Governor Bobby Jindal thinks he knows who might help foot the bill: you and me, pal, if Cap and Tax gets passed.
It turns out that projects for rebuilding marsh and the delta will score all kinds of points in the Carbon Offset game. If someone wants to build, say, a coal-fired electrical generation plant, they will be required under the Waxman-Markey abomination to purchase Carbon Credits from a "qualified project".
Scientists working with Louisiana to develop a carbon-credit plan say the river delta is a factor in the greenhouse gas equation. They say the 2,000 square miles of Louisiana marshland lost since 1932 is equivalent to the carbon output of 80 million automobiles driving for one year.
So, you're looking to keep driving that Suburban? Or using coal-based electricity? We in Louisiana are here to help.
"We can tap that market to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars without making any modifications to our projects whatsoever," said Garret Graves, Jindal's top adviser on the coast and levees.
Here's how it could work:
In coming decades, Louisiana and the federal government plan to spend billions of dollars planting cypress trees, piping mud into dying wetlands and diverting rivers to flush out salt water.
Saltwater intrusion is a major cause of erosion because it kills marsh grasses and other vegetation that buffer land from the Gulf of Mexico. An area about the size of Delaware has been lost to the Gulf since the 1930s.
Jindal's advisers and scientists say the work should be regarded as construction of a huge "carbon sink" — a manmade wilderness that extracts greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from the air while producing oxygen.
In turn, Louisiana could sell "carbon credits" to companies that invest in building up this carbon sponge and keep the planet cooler — credits that would make up the emerging cap-and-trade markets.
Of course, this is bound to be controversial -- with both sides:
Environmentalists say Jindal's interest in carbon credits is hypocritical in light of the governor's silence on the issue of global warming. Also, some environmentalists are critical of market-based environmentalism because they feel that it allows polluters to perpetuate bad habits and avoid costly upgrades that curb their greenhouse gas emissions.
"They want to take advantage of the growing concern over climate change without saying we're concerned about it," said Randy Lanctot, executive director of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation.
And it could upset conservatives, too.
"(Cap-and-trade) is really just another tax. In this case, it's a corporate income tax," said Patrick Michaels, senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.
"Doesn't it sound progressive that we'll rip off industry? That will get a lot of Republican voters," Michaels said with irony. "If Louisiana wants to lead the nation in levying an industrial tax that won't do anything about climate, so be it."
Personally, I have no problem with the governor's investigating Carbon Credits as one way to help finance the state's critically needed wetland projects. If it turns out that there is trading in Carbon Credits, better to keep some of the money in one of the reddest of Red States.