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Is Dave Matthews' carbon offsets provider really carbon neutral?

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Tom Boucher, a former utility official who helped found NativeEnergy, defends his company's method as an innovative way of building new projects that help the environment.

"If you are simply paying for something that is already happening, it's far less compelling," he says in an interview in NativeEnergy's office. "The power of our help-build model with our upfront payments is [that] it really becomes part of the financing. If you just look to our shortened terms and conditions, or wherever we make a claim around an amount, we always have a reference to 'it's over time.' "

NativeEnergy described itself in 2007 as "a privately held Native American energy company," and now says it is "significantly owned" by native American tribes. Tom Stoddard, a former utility company lawyer and vice president of NativeEnergy, says native ownership is 16 percent. Mr. Boucher and Mr. Stoddard are not native Americans. They say they help finance projects that benefit indigenous people.

Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, based in Minnesota, argues that carbon offsets do more harm than help for native peoples. He says indigenous people from Canada to South America are being pushed off land for incoming carbon projects, and often do not share in the economic benefits created by these offset projects.

They are "just another mechanism to relieve society of the fact that we need to make real changes," Mr. Goldtooth says. "It functions to relieve someone of their guilt."

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