Eco-bunk Exposed

Thu, 2008-10-23 17:58Mitchell Anderson
Mitchell Anderson's picture

Eco-bunk Exposed

Why bother doing something when you can just say you did it? That seems to be the cynical sentiment driving a lucrative growth industry: corporate green washing.

Consumers are increasingly demanding that companies demonstrate their commitment to the environment through responsible practices. Many of these companies are instead providing PR spin and phony labeling in an effort to keep doing what they have been doing while improving their corporate image.

While this might buy them some time in the short term, the public is peeling back the green veil on eco-bunk. Have a look at this insightful article by Fred Pearce in the Guardian on the Great Green Swindle.

Pearce details how many companies are investing in image instead of action, and being exposed as a result.

In August, an ad industry's watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority, rapped oil company Shell's knuckles for trying to claim, in an advertisement in the Financial Times, that its $10bn investment in sucking tar sands out of the Canadian midwest was a contribution to a sustainable energy future… Overall, the emissions from mining, refining and burning tar sands are between three and 10 times greater than for conventional oil. Shell's sleight of hand was to use the much-abused word “sustainability” to imply a green agenda when what it was really on about was keeping a sustainable flow of fuel out of its forecourt pumps. The ASA cried foul.

It seems the audacity of some companies knows no bounds. The oil sands are so obscenely unsustainable that they consume enough relatively clean natural gas every day to heat over three million Canadian homes. Environmental Defence published a 131 page report on the tar sands cheerfully called “The Most Destructive Project on Earth”.

If the tar sands are “sustainable”, then the word clearly has lost all meaning in the English language and should be expunged from dictionaries the world over.

How about this corporate nose-stretcher: Manchester airport apparently pledged to make the facility carbon-neutral, with one small caveat: the target does not include the 200,000-plus flights into and out of the airport each year.

The sustainable development organization, Forum for the Future conducted an audit on the airport and observed that this claim “jars somewhat”. The British have always had a gift for understatement.

Here’s another knee-slapper exposed by Pearce. The City of London Corporation launched a City Climate Pledge, under which local banks would pledge to “measure and monitor” their carbon footprint. But companies simply have to fill out a form detailing their CO2 plans and they can use the pledge logo. “Companies using the logo will be recognized as exemplar sustainable businesses [able to] attract consumers who are becoming more discerning about the credentials of businesses they deal with,” says the flyer.

Not bad for just filling out a form. Especially as there doesn't seem to be any follow-up or auditing process involved.

Thankfully this effort by the Guardian to expose green washing is not merely a one-off. They are launching a regular column where their readers can help with the daunting task of tracking the torrent of eco-bunk the public is exposed to.

According to Pearce, “How many more green scams, cons and generous slices of wishful thinking are out there? We want to name and shame them before the whole green movement gets a bad reputation.” Well said, Mr. Pearce.

Readers are invited to send vent their spleens in the direction of: greenwash@guardian.co.uk

Comments

Is that not how we now have CFL lamps in our homes?
General Electric declare themselves A Green company and Now we have " Green" mercury in our homes again.GE had to get rid of that Mercury overstock somehow since they could not put them in Thermometers and thermostats anymore.
The PR spin and phony labeling worked pretty good.

GE announce last week the they are no longer investing in green initiatives. The economy downturn has made realists out of them.
And out of the EU as it turns out.

You have it bass ackwards again.

GE has a financial services arm... that part of their business is slowing their green investment in other companies. (Although they did announce a $30 million investment in battery maker A123 Systems this week).

But GE is also finding that renewable energy is the most profitable and resilient part of their business. They are a huge player, for example, in wind turbine manufacture and low-emission locomotives manufacture... and those businesses are the best in their portfolio. Billions and billions in back orders. That's why GE is investing $1.5 billion in clean tech over the next two years.

Here's a summary, but there are longer stories if you want to Google.

http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2008/10/22/green-products-help-ge-weather-rough-times

And even though you've all been making hay about some rancor within the European Union over climate change initiatives... have any of you noticed that the EU parliament actually endorsed the tough new measures last Wednesday? And that 80 percent of EU nations support the new measures?

GE Bails:
General Electric is the latest to throw in the towel, after the abrupt departure of Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley. The conglomerate, which makes energy gear like wind and gas turbines as well as underwriting renewable-energy projects, says it is bailing out of the clean-tech investment game for now, once it finishes with existing projects.
http://blogs.wsj.com/environmentalcapital/2008/10/20/clean-energy-meltdown-now-ges-bailing/
EU Bails:
The EU has made further carbon restrictions conditional on India and China coming to the party -- thus finally catching up with that old American guy -- what's his name? Ah! Yes. G.W. Bush. And that is the end of the game. Because India and China will NOT cut their own throats. Only tokenism is now on the cards -- just enough to save face and make the retreat respectable
http://www.euractiv.com/en/climate-change/divided-eu-wants-poor-countries-join-climate-pledge/article-176545

Boy this site is dull now.
And did you notice that they delete posts that don't support the cause now?

My points still stand. At GE, Their financial services arm is cutting their exposure, but they are expanding their own clean tech businesses.

Several of my comments haven't appeared lately either.

"they consume enough relatively clean natural gas every day to heat over three million Canadian homes."

This is flat wrong.

http://www.ocecs.ca/docs/Market_Fact_Sheet209NII-06032006-6190.pdf

"Canadian natural gas demand in 2004 was nearly 3 Tcf.
• Canadian natural gas demand is dominated by the industrial sector, typically
accounting for about 35 per cent of total domestic demand. Combined, the
residential and commercial sectors account for 40 per cent of total Canadian natural
gas demand. The power generation sector consumes about 10 per cent. The
remaining 15 per cent is natural gas demand for transportation, which includes ownuse
natural gas consumption by producers and pipeline companies, as well as
minor amounts of natural gas for vehicles.
• Natural gas is the source of heating for nearly half of all Canadian homes. There
are about 6,083,000 natural gas consuming households in Canada, representing
22 per cent of total Canadian demand for natural gas.'

According to this:
http://www.theoildrum.com/uploads/44/other_gas_canada.jpg

Tar sands consumption is 2 billion cubic feet per day, while all other consumption is 5 billion cubic feet per day. Since homes account for 22% of that, that's 1.1 billion cubic feet per day for homes (on average for the year), Thus the tar sands uses, twice the amount homes use per day. Thus the tar sands uses per day the same amount of natural gas as 12 million homes, not 3 million.

It's helpful to know that the tar sands is four times more unsustainable than Mitchell or the Environmental Defence Fund could have imagined.

And that is why I'm getting off natural gas and putting in a ground source heat pump. The bore holes are in. Yes, I knew a while ago that the tar sands uses 30% of all the natural gas used in the rest of Canada. Entire gas fields are devoted just for the tar sands. For those who do not know, there is no oil in the tar sands. It's bitumen, the same material that is used in asphalt. It's the last dregs of an oil deposit. To make synthetic crude the bitumen chains need to be cracked into smaller molecules. The ends of those chains must be "capped" with a hydrogen atom. There is only one place that can come from and that's methane. Some 75% of the NG used in the tar sands is for this cracking process. The deposit is currently producing 1.5 million barrels per day, they want to increase that to 3mb/day. Thus to do so would require the consumption of 60% of all the NG used in Canada. And that is when the state of NG production is in terminal decline since 1995 of about 3% per year. Couple this with an EROEI of the tar sands of 4:1 then one can see clearly that we are in desperation mode with respect to energy. Clearly it is unsustainable. Thus, and what has been my position for more than 10 years, is peak oil is the far bigger threat to civilization than GW ever can be. In fact, all your measures to reduce CO2 will siphon money from other efforts and drain the last bit of energy resources we have left. Thus bringing on civilization crash sooner and harder. The only saving grace is the current credit crisis is setting us back about 6 years (so far) giving us a chance to take the peak oil issue seriously.

According to Pearce, “How many more green scams, cons and generous slices of wishful thinking are out there? We want to name and shame them before the whole green movement gets a bad reputation.”

It already has. Everyone is paying lip service to it. If anything, any attempt to audit will just realize that any attempts to cut CO2 emissions will be either near impossible, or monitarily prohibative. So go ahead, expose it all you want. You won't like the outcome.

Sold all that overstock Mercury?

If you run a big company, you must keep up with the competition and that means getting some kind of green branding - you must be seen to be good corporate citizen, a company that cares and an entity with a warm human face - or you will be beaten by someone who is smarter.

There are no green corporations. There are no good corporations. There are only business success's and failures.

Oh, the trolls are out again...

petty name callers like berg can post freely as long as they attack anyone who may be out of lockstep with the company line.

this is the way to make a weak navel gazing website

Yes, Rick, I too have noticed a new censorious attitude at Desmogblog. A couple of recent response posts of mine were censored even though I did not indulge in ad hominem attacks or use naughty words. This is Hoggan PR's web site and I guess they can do what they want. But it will become awfully dull if they turn it into an echo chamber for their own pontifications. Perhaps, though, they are just enforcing Suzuki's advice to those who disagree with his (and Desmog's) view of an impending apocalypse due to global warming. Advised the esteemed doctor: Just shut the f*ck up! (Ottawa Citizen February 2007)

[x]

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