The path to easy wealth may not be paved with carbon abatement certificates.

The price of carbon took a dive in the fifth auction conducted by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a carbon abatement plan for in the Northeast. At the quarterly auction earlier this week, 28.4 million allowances with a 2009 vintage sold for an average price of $2.19 per ton.

Meanwhile, 2.2 million allowances with a 2012 vintage were sold for an average price of $1.87 per ton.

That's down from the earlier auctions. In June, RGGI auctioned off 30.9 million 2009 allowances for an average price of $3.23 and 2.2 million 2012 allowances for $2.06. That's a 32 percent reduction in price on the 2009 allowances and an 8 percent decline in volume. In June, 85 percent of the allowances sold.  

Last September, in the first carbon auctions conducted by RGGI Inc., the administrative body for RGGI, the auction yielded 12.6 million allowances for $3.07 per allowance, according to World Energy, which provides the underlying software and services for the auction. A second auction in December yielded 31.5 million allowances at $3.38 per allowance. At another auction on March 23, 31.5 million allowances were auctioned at $3.51 per allowance. The March auction also saw the sale of 2.2 million 2012 vintage allowances for $3.05 per allowance.

The results come at a time when the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives are trying to gather steam for a national cap-and-trade bill. The results may not affect the debate, but they do underscore the sometimes erratic nature of commodities. (The White House has been aiming to release its policy on September 23 to coincide with a U.N. climate conference and the Clinton Global Initiative, according to various sources, but now it may have been pushed back.)

To gain political support for a national program, some have suggested making carbon desks regional. That way, Michigan and other states with lots of pollution would also reap the benefits of the auctions.

Learn how to differentiate your company through greener product lines at Greening the Supply Chain on September 17 in Boston.