Greenwash

'Green is Great': Coal, Oil, and Greenwash at the UN Climate Talks

Read time: 5 mins
Coal soap at Katowice pavilion at COP24

We were told to meet by the glowing jellyfish. Pascoe Sabido was holding it aloft, its plastic tentacles tangling, as journalists and campaigners closed in around him. A campaigner for Corporate Europe Observatory, he had promised us a “Toxic Tour” of COP24, a chance to see the influence of energy companies lurking behind the green veneer of the countries gathered here to tackle climate change.

Except, in some cases, the veneer was wearing thin — or, in Poland’s case — had rubbed off entirely. The tour began next to the logos of the conference’s sponsors projected onto the wall. It’s currently advertising LOTOS Oil, a Polish company that operates mainly in Norway. Other sponsors include JSW, a coal company, and PZU, the largest insurer of the Polish coal industry.

From Kermit to Coal, Book Reveals How World's Top Brands Greenwash The Public

Read time: 5 mins

“I GUESS it is easy being green,” said Kermit the Frog as he bounced around a Ford Escape Hybrid in a 2006 television ad campaign.

During the ad, Kermit displayed his innate talent for not blinking which, it has to be said, is due essentially to his congenital lack of eyelids.

But had Kermit blinked, he would have missed the small print at the bottom of the ad which showed that at the time, this “green” vehicle had a fuel consumption slightly worse than the US average.

But that seems to be the rule when it comes to claims of climate-friendliness made by some of the world's biggest brands.

Check the small print, and the responsible green hue soon fades to something resembling bullsh*t-brown (or whatever color denotes hypocrisy). At least that's the conclusion after reading Australian author and researcher Guy Pearse's latest book. Pearse spent close to four years immersing himself in some 3000 TV commercials and viewing about 4000 print and web adverts, all of which make claims of climate friendliness (I disclose here that I had a small paid role as a fact-checker on the book).

After checking the brand's actual contribution to climate change (or their lack of transparency) in more than 700 company reports, Pearse finds in Greenwash: Big Brands and Carbon Scams that the green revolution is being either grossly overblown or faked.

Does Red Leaf's "EcoShale" Technology Greenwash Oil Shale Extraction?

Read time: 4 mins

At the Clinton Global Initiative in 2008, former Vice President Al Gore called the possibility of fossil fuel corporations extracting oil shaleutter insanity.” 

Insanity, though, doesn't serve as a hinderance for deeply entrenched and powerful fossil fuel interests.

Oil shale, also known as kerogen, should not be confused with shale gas or shale oil, two fossil fuels best known from Josh Fox's “Gasland.” As explained in a report by the Checks and Balances Project,

Oil shale itself is a misnomer. It is actually rock containing an organic substance called kerogen. The rocks haven’t been in the ground for enough time or under enough pressure to become oil. Oil companies need to recreate geological forces to produce any energy from it. Ideas for developing oil shale have included baking acres of land at 700 degrees for three to four years and even detonating an atomic bomb underground.

The really “insane” part of the equation: oil shale production, which has yet to begin, would be ecologically destructive to the extreme.

“Because oil shale is a rock, commercial production would release 25% to 75% more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil,” wrote the Western Resource Advocates. Furthermore, like tar sands production and shale oil/gas production, oil shale production is a water-intensive process.

Adding insult to injury, in the 100 years of attempted commercial production of oil shale, the fossil fuel industry has yet to seal the deal, motivating an April 2012 report by Checks and Balances titled “A Century of Failure.”

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