Archives for: September 2008
On its website and advertisements, Chevron uses its slogan, "Human Energy," to tout its use of innovation and efficiency for its altruistic goal to "power human progress." With its newest greenwashing campaign, "Will You Join Us?," Chevron encourages consumers to "carpool more" and "use less energy," while showcasing all the steps it takes to become more energy efficient. But how much is Chevron investing in alternative clean energy and efficiency? How does this compare to how much it is spending on selling its "Human Energy" image and lobbying for market advantages among Congress members and presidential candidates?
The U.S.'s second-largest oil company, Chevron made over $39.5 billion dollars in profit in light of rising gas prices this past year. With these tremendous profits, the oil giant invested $562 million in emerging energy technologies like biofuels and hydrogen, a meager 3% of the $15.5 billion it spent on explorative drilling and production . Chevron also sold off interest in wind and solar projects last year, like the Texaco Nederland B.V. wind farm, in order to increase shareholder returns and focus "its resources and capital investments on maintaining leading positions" in the market it knows best—oil .
With the $15 million re-launch of the "Will You Join Us?" PR campaign, Chevron hopes that consumers will believe that they are at the forefront of a cleaner energy future, and not in the business of drilling and selling one of the biggest global contributors to global-warming emissions. After increasing its ad spending this past year, Chevron joins other energy giants like Shell, who have already spent well over $55 million this year on ads.
Something Chevron doesn't bother to mention in any of its marketing is its use of human exploitation, particularly the native peoples of Nigeria and Ecuador, as well as the environment. It fails to mention a pending law suit in which the company is being tried for gross human rights violations against villagers who peacefully protested Chevron’s environmental abuses.
Oil and gas companies are placing their bets on John McCain for 2008, who has received over $1.6 million dollars from the industry, compared to Barack Obama's $457,895 in PAC contributions and individual donations. Chevron alone has contributed $679,000 to the 2008 presidential and congressional candidates thus far, with nearly three-quarters of that going to republican candidates. Chevron is also reaching out to voters during the upcoming presidential debates, as it is one of the lead sponsors of the first debate to be aired on September 26.
Along with trying to buy allies and put them in office, Chevron spent over $4 million in the first half of 2008 lobbying for non-green causes that it does not brag about on its website, like deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and weakening the impact of America's Climate Security Act of 2007. While Chevron may be trying hard to talk like a green corporation, it is doing little with its actions, making it another oil-drenched greenwashed poseur worthy of consumer skepticism.
“It’s technically challenging to convert heavy bitumen [from tar sands] into clean burning fuel, so CO2 emissions are higher than conventional petrol.”Yet, rather than investing in readily available, cleaner technologies, like solar or wind, the company plans to increase investment in dirty energy, and is asking nations of the G8 to fund risky attempts to bury its dirty emissions. All while Shell and other oil companies are raking in record profits.
This week GM and other automakers were on the hill lobbying Congress to give them $25B in loan guarantees to help build fuel-efficient cars . Lately, U.S. automakers have really needed these guarantees. Their undesirable and inefficient products have lead to poor sales and poor credit ratings, and banks now only agree to give them loans at high rates, or not at all. These guarantees would help automakers get loans at better rates, since the government would be backing them and promising to pay the lender if the automakers are unable.
These guarantees come at an expense, though. Congress has estimated that this program will cost $7.5B – that money coming, of course, out of taxpayer pockets .
Does GM deserve this taxpayer money? Given the poor decisions GM management has made over the past several years and the many ways the company is misleading the public, it’s easy to argue that it doesn’t.
GM has spent the better part of the last two decades pouring billions into ads for behemoth gas-guzzlers. Increasing global concern over climate change and a tightening global oil supply hasn’t deterred the company from encouraging consumers to buy huge SUVs. As recently as this past Super Bowl, GM spent over $5M for a 60-second ad showing off the company’s large GMC Yukon Hybrid . The ad provided GM a chance to promote its profitable gas-guzzler, while also earning green cred because of the vehicle’s hybrid system (though the vehicle only gets 20mpg). Maybe if GM had spent a little more money actually making efficient vehicles, and less money on SUV and greenwash ads, taxpayers wouldn’t need to bail the company out.
Last year alone, GM spent over $3 billion dollars on marketing. A good chunk of that went to Chevy and its “gas-friendly to gas-free” campaign ($726M), while another large chunk was spent on GMC truck ads ($263M), and another on Hummer ads ($84M).
It would be really great if GM did some day actually build the Volt and other “gas-friendly” vehicles it so aggressively advertises. But, until then, maybe GM should stop spending millions bragging about efficient cars, and instead spend that money building them.
 E&E Publishing, September 8, 2008. (subscription required)
 E&E Publishing, September 18, 2008 (subscription required)
 The Detroit News. January 31, 2008. “Big 3 tread lightly on Super ad field; Automakers cut back on big-ticket roles.” Eric Morath
Public Relations dilemmas are nothing new for the nuclear industry. For more than half a century, this industry has attempted to deflect attention away from the dirty and dangerous downsides of nuclear power technology. Over the years, the nuclear industry's propagandists have merged and morphed and changed their names, searching for something to hide the awful truth: the Atomic Industrial Forum, Committee for Energy Awareness, The U.S. Council for Energy Awareness, the Nuclear Energy Institute and the latest front group, CASEnergy- Clean And Safe Energy. Each manifestation of the industry front group has engaged in efforts to greenwash the truth about nuclear power.
Our investigation of nuclear greenwash will take several chapters. In this first essay, we will look at the history of this industry's tortured attempts to frame a highly dangerous technology as safe, friendly and environmentally beneficial. Starting with the Atoms for Peace program and the famous first big lie of energy, "too cheap to meter", the nuclear industry has flailed time and again as it tries to gain acceptance and work its way past the massive cost overruns, design errors and tragic accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernoby, amongst others.
In the late 20th century, an industry fraught with a legacy of problems, with no hope of revival, desperate for a lifeboat, clung to the looming threat of global warming and sought to position itself as the magic bullet. They asked that we increase our dependence on nuclear power, ignore all the problems, the accidents, terror threats, proliferation and undelivered radioactive waste solutions, and continue to ask taxpayers to insure nuclear power against inevitable liability.
1953- Atomic Industrial Forum
The Atomic Industrial Forum (AIF) was founded in 1953 and marked the beginnings of the commercial nuclear industry in the United States.
In December of that year President Eisenhower introduced the Atoms for Peace program in a speech at the United Nations and in 1954 Congress passed the Atomic Energy Act which allowed corporations access to the materials and information acquired from the Manhattan Project's pursuit of the Atomic bomb. According to a nuclear industry's own documents, "AIF provided a forum to facilitate the government's transfer of nuclear technology to private industry." 
As with its offspring, part of AIF's mission was to manage the nuclear industry's image. After the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine, AIF's President Karl Walske attempted to defend the industry by challenging NRC Commissioner Asselstine's testimony before Congress. Walske claimed that the NRC Commissioner's testimony on the dangers of nuclear power may have been misinterpreted in the public arena.
1979 - 1983 The Committees for Energy Awareness
The Committee for Energy Awareness (CEA) was formed in 1979 as an adjunct to the Atomic Industrial Forum. CEA's role was to repair the tarnished image of the nuclear industry after Three Mile Island (TMI). When the industry realized that this effort wasn't enough to repair the PR damage caused by the meltdown and evacuation around TMI they split CEA and AIF and created the "independent" group, U.S. Committee for Energy Awareness in 1983. This new committee was funded by the private utilities.
According to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, the US Committee for Energy Awareness launched a $30- million advertising and lobbying campaign in 1983. 
"What its slick, low-key television ads failed to mention is that the group gets more than half its funding from 50 utilities, some of which have billed their unsuspecting customers for the media blitz.
"These ads just wouldn't have the same reassuring tone if the tag line had been: 'Brought to you by America's nuclear utilities, makers of Three Mile Island. Energy for a Brighter Tomorrow.'"
Kurtz and the Post had access to the Committee's internal documents that detailed its green washing campaign. As noted in the Post:
"...training and placement of independent energy experts on local radio and television talk shows in priority regions ... letters to the editor by energy experts ... (and) op-ed columns and other bylined articles by nuclear supporters outside the industry." All of this was designed to 'establish the credibility of CEA as more than a propaganda organization.'"
1987 - US Council for Energy Awareness
In a subtle re-branding exercise, the U.S. Council for Energy Awareness (USCEA) was formed in 1987 after the nuclear industry recommended that the existing Washington nuclear associations reorganize. Shuffling staff around, most of the AIF staff to joined with the US Committee for Energy Awareness, while a third of AIF joined a new regulatory organization, The Nuclear Management and Resources Council.
This revised version of USCEA continued the advertising campaigns of its predecessors. In 1988, the Council undertook some awkward attempts at greenwashing. One print ad ran with the tag line "Nuclear energy for energy independence and a cleaner Earth" and featured picketing animals. The television and print ad campaign attempted to label nuclear power as "clean" and claimed that "nuclear power didn't contribute to the greenhouse effect, possible global warming and its adverse effect on the environment and our quality of life."
Too much to pass up, Greenpeace countered these early greenwash advertisements with our own parodies of the USCEA ads that were strategically placed in television programs. You might catch one of these mock ads on reruns of Law & Order.
1994 - Nuclear Energy Institute
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) is the latest manifestation of the propaganda wing of the nuclear industry. NEI was formed by the merger of the US Council for Energy Awareness, the Nuclear Management and Resources Council, the American Nuclear Energy Council, and the Nuclear Division of the Edison Electric Institute in 1994.
NEI has continued the media barrage of its predecessors prompting environmentalist to challenge the ads before the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
In December 1998, the BBB found that NEI ads falsely claimed that nuclear reactors make power without polluting the air and water or damaging the environment. According to the New York Times, the BBB said that, "The nuclear industry should stop calling itself 'environmentally clean' and should stop saying it makes power 'without polluting the environment.'" Andrea Levine, the director of the division, said such claims were "unsupportable."
Since then NEI has virtually ignored the BBB and has continued to run advertisements touting the supposed environmental benefits of their technology. This brazen disregard for the BBB prompted the environmental groups to bring NEI before the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). And in December 1999, the FTC found that "because the discharge of hot water from cooling systems is known to harm the environment, and given the unresolved issues surrounding disposal of radioactive waste, we think that NEI has failed to substantiate its general environmental benefit claim."
Unfortunately the FTC failed to rule on whether the NEI ads were commercial or political speech and thus failed to exercise jurisdiction over the case.  As a result of the FTC punting on the issue, NEI ads and claims have changed precious little. NEI continues to make the same claims that the BBB found to be false and misleading. In a new twist to tried and true propaganda ploys that the industry has used for decades, NEI has recently employed the use of new front groups to push the its message.
2006 - Clean and Safe Energy CASEnergy
In 2006, NEI hired a former Greenpeace activist turned industry apologist, Patrick Moore and former New Jersey Governor and US EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman as the lead public faces of the new CASEnergy Coalition.
Given the nuclear industry's track record, you can understand why these corporations would need the services of major PR firms and form front groups whose primary purpose is to inveigle and obfuscate. CASEnergy had a big roll out at the National Press Club in Washington, DC and a placed op-ed piece in the Washington Post entitled "Going Nuclear." 
Unfortunately, the major media outlets bought the industry line hook, line & sinker as they pitched nuclear power as a global warming panacea and substitute for dirty coal power plants. It was left to the Columbia Journalism Review to call the media on their failure to accurately identify CASEnergy as a front group for NEI. 
In our next chapter, StopGreenwash will take a detailed look a the tactics employed by the nuclear propaganda machines to mislead the public.
 U.S. Council For Energy Awareness, Report to Members, 1992 1993. P. 3
 Howard Kurtz, Hiding a Lobby Behind a Name: Why Not Truth in Labeling For Interest Groups?" Washington Post. January 27, 1985.
 U.S. Council For Energy Awareness, Report to Members, 1992 1993. P. 3
 Federal Trade Commission, Letter to Joseph Colvin, President and CEO, Nuclear Energy Institute, December 15, 1999.
 The Washington Post
 Columbia Journalism Review, FALSE FRONTS: Why to Look Behind the Label," July/August 2006.
The America's Power campaign, funded by the coal and electricity industry, promotes coal as our country's solution to energy independence. They do this through the lens of clean coal, when in reality they are simply a front group for an industry lobby aimed to keep dirty coal plants in existence.
American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) is a not-for-profit organization (NGO) founded as a result of the merge between Americans for Balanced Energy Choices and Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED) . Its stated mission is "to advance the development and deployment of advanced clean coal technologies that will produce electricity with near-zero emissions." 
ACCCE's mission is to convey to consumers and elected officials that coal should play a central role in meeting future American energy needs. As it notes on its website, "America can continue to make great progress in improving environmental quality while at the same time enjoying the benefits of using domestic energy resources like coal to meet our growing demand for affordable, reliable and clean energy. In a word...we believe in technology."  As part of this effort, ACCCE has sought to re-brand coal as a "clean" energy source. Its messaging reminds viewers that "half of our electricity comes from coal" and that "coal is our most abundant fuel." 
To do this, ACCCE is spending at least $35 million in 2008 to mount a major public relations campaign designed to promote public awareness of clean coal in the context of the Presidential race. They are doing this by flooding the election season with national and local ad campaigns.
ACCCE's campaign is built around an "American Energy" theme, arguing that "clean" coal-fired power plants are the only viable path to American energy independence. They have run print ads in key primary states to remind prospective voters of their state's reliance on coal and tout the benefits of clean coal in terms of both jobs and affordable power. To date, the local ads have run in Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania . In addition to a traditional media campaign, ACCCE utilizes a ground force of 150,000 supporters, who they call the "civilian army" and their "Power Van" as a guerilla force to bird-dog political rallies and events across the country festooned with clean coal slogans and a blue sky backdrop .
Along with their print ad campaign, ACCCE paid CNN $5 million to be one of the main co-sponsors of six presidential debates, providing saturation advertising both on television and online. Some blogs have noted the irony that during these debates, no questions have been asked about climate and specifically about coal.
In 2007 alone, 59 proposed coal plants were cancelled or put on hold and in January DOE pulled the plug on the FutureGen project planned for Illinois that would be the first "near-zero emissions" facility utilizing cap and storage technology because the project was resulting in higher than expected costs. And to top things off, in October 2007, Kansas became the first state to reject issuing a permit for a new coal-fired plan solely because of its potential to contribute to global warming. But the coal industry isn't giving up, in fact ACCCE has increased its budget from approximately $8 million to $35 million for 2008 . Other industry partners such as the National Mining Association have also increased their lobbying significantly in 2008 . The intention is clear, the coal industry is determined to maintain America's over reliance on coal as a domestic energy source in spite of the need to diversify energy production to address global warming and minimize any impacts to the coal industry within the energy debate.
ACCCE is a wholly owned (albeit non-profit) subsidiary of the U.S. coal industry. Its list of 43 supporters reads like a who's who of the coal, rail, and electricity industries: ALCOA, American Electric Power, CSX, Detroit Edison, Duke Energy, Peabody Energy, Southern Company and Union Pacific Railroad. Its real purpose, contrary to its claims, is not to promote coal as a source for clean or green energy, but merely to ensure that the United States continues to be highly dependent on coal for its energy needs.
Not surprisingly, ACCCE's promotion of clean coal plays with the facts. Although ACCCE claims that its "coal-based generating fleet is 70 percent cleaner than before," these numbers refer only to reductions in sulfur oxide (SOX) and nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions . The coal industry has yet to implement technology to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the main cause of global warming. ACCCE also fails to state anywhere in its campaign or on its website that coal plants are cleaner today not because of the industry's voluntary efforts, but rather as a result of legislative mandates or court decisions .
Perhaps the most misleading component of ACCCE's campaign is its implication that new and better CCS technologies capable of creating "near-zero emissions" are right around the corner. In reality, some scientists feel that the earliest CCS technology could be implemented is 2030 and would cost billions . This is illustrated by the DOE's decision to pull out of FutureGen when the project began to exceed projected costs.
While the public mission of the group is to promote clean coal, a closer look at the group reveals otherwise. Newly formed in 2008, ACCCE is the latest version of the long lineage of coal front groups. If you look at the federal tax records for ACCCE's parent organization, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC), you will find the true nature of their work. In their 2006 tax records, ABEC claims that they promote "an increased awareness of improvements in U.S. air quality and the coal-based electricity sector's role in America's ongoing environmental progress as well as the mobilization of a citizen army on issues involving various state regulatory and legislative actions including decisions on implementation of EPA's Clean Air Mercury rule and actions to regulate utility greenhouse gas emissions." 
At the same time that ACCCE was telling the public that it was dedicated to clean technology, it was spending over $2.6 million lobbying Congress. According to lobbying records, it "opposed the national renewal portfolio" in the Comprehensive Energy Bill (HR 6) and contested the America's Climate Security Act (better known as the Lieberman-Warner bill) when it came before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee .
While, ACCCE promotes the benefits of coal to local communities, they neglect to speak to the reality of the environmental damage caused by its extraction and use. They fail to mention the impacts of air pollutants and mercury contamination produced in the burning of coal, which are known to cause cancer, impair reproduction, inhibit child development, damage the nervous and immune systems, and worsen respiratory ailments like asthma. They never mention the environmental impact of coal mining, which includes erosion, groundwater contamination, habitat destruction, and toxic waste. Environmental and economic costs incurred in waste disposal and land reclamation and transportation are also omitted from the dialog .
Perhaps most relevant to its current campaign, ACCCE proudly admits that 50 percent of our electricity comes from coal, yet they neglect to admit its contribution to climate change. The EPA documented that in 2006 electricity generation "is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, representing 33 percent of total US emissions . In reality, there is nothing "clean" about the coal electicity it promotes.
 America's Power
 America's Power
 America's Power
 America's Power
 America's Power
 America's Power
 2006 IRS form 990, Americans For Balanced Energy Choices Greenpeace Investigations
 The Washington Post
 America's Power
 Keating, Martha. Cradle to Grave: The Environmental Impacts from Coal. June 2001 Clean Air Task Force
 New Scientist, "Can coal live up to its clean promise?" March 27, 2008
 2006 IRS form 990, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices Greenpeace Investigations
 Lobbying Report, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, 2007, Greenpeace Investigations website
 Keating, passim.
 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Inventory of U.S Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2006" EPA
While Shell is portraying a green image in its ads, the company is investing heavily in increasingly destructive practices. Shell is a lead company in the business of dirty and unconventional fuels, and is heavily invested in the tar sands located in Alberta, Canada . The tar sands holds the second largest deposit of oil reserves in the world, and Shell is spending billions of dollars every year to make sure they remain a leader in both developing and processing the tar sands. They are also quickly increasing investments in the tar sands and upgrading capacity.
Extracting oil from the tar sands has a huge impact on the environment and climate change. The production of oil from the tar sands is responsible for major greenhouse gas emissions (3 to 5 times the amount of GHG emissions as conventional oil), water depletion and pollution, toxic contamination of the surrounding ecosystem and local communities, as well as the destruction of the Boreal Forest. The tar sands are buried under thousands of square miles of the Boreal Forest and this critical forest ecosystem, often referred to as the “lungs of the our planet” is being clearcut so that Shell and other oil companies can access the tar. The Boreal Forest is a storehouse of carbon, holding more than 47 billion tonnes in its trees and soil. Shell Canada’s President and CEO, Clive Mather, didn’t seemed phased about the destruction his operations are having on the environment when he talked about Shell’s expansion projects; he put it like this, “Shell has some of the best land and minable ore quality in the Athabasca area. With billions of barrels of bitumen in place, we see clear potential for sustained profitable growth .” Profitable growth indeed . . . but at what expense?
Tar sands development is the single largest contributor to the increase in climate change in Canada, accounting for 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year . By 2011 the tar sands are estimated to emit twice that amount, and more than triple that by 2020. Tar sands is one of the most environmentally destructive and greenhouse gas intensive ways to extract oil. By continuing to develop and expand production of the tar sands Shell is not only diverting us off the path to clean energy but also directly contributing to climate change.
In August 2008, Shell was found guilty of misleading the public over its tar sands operations. The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the company should not have used the word "sustainable" when describing its Canadian tar sands operations. The ASA ruled that the Shell ad had breached rules on substantiation, truthfulness and environmental claims.
 Shell website
As Americans become increasingly concerned about climate change, Shell has launched public relations campaigns that portray a green image and emphasize efforts to protect the world’s resources and climate. Their efforts run the gamut of PR strategies, from print and television, to less traditional blogs and magazines. In reality, Shell’s “green” activities do not warrant the amount of publicity they are receiving.
This print ad claims greenhouse gas emissions from Shell facilities were being piped into actual Dutch greenhouses to stimulate the growth of flowers. The retro-60s font style seems intended to suggest an “Age of Aquarius” holistic, closed-loop approach to oil production.
Contrary the claim that “there is no away,” Shell – the world’s second-largest oil company - has a definite idea of where “away” is located. It’s in Ogoniland, the part of the Niger River delta in Nigeria where Shell has conducted oil extraction operations since 1958, resulting in widespread pollution of Ogoniland and the deaths and displacement of tens of thousands of the Ogoni people .
In July 2007, the Dutch Advertising Code Authority (Holland is Shell’s home nation) ordered the company to withdraw the flowers ad, determining that it is a “misleading environmental claim” .
The ad is part of an expensive campaign to call attention to a small-scale project near Shell’s corporate headquarters, all the while hoping no one will notice the environmental devastation and human rights violations occurring in the region where Shell actually pumps oil from the ground. There more details available on Sourcewatch and Crococyl.
In another print ad, Shell seems to suggests that “GLT” fuel will grow trees and make snow. The fuel is not explained in the ad, but it refers to “Gas to Liquid” fuel – a fuel made from natural gas. The fuel does reduce harmful emissions compared to gas, but the insinuation that using this fuel will somehow result in snowy wildernesses is over the top, especially considering that burning this fuel releases greenhouse gas emission that are melting snow in many places around the world.
Shell has had lots of trouble sticking to the truth: in the last couple years the company has also mislead the public about the size of its oil reserves and the environmental impacts of its operations … among other things.
In a televised ad, Shell advertises its premium gas by using colorful animated fish, portraying the marine environment as a happy, healthy, musical place. In reality, Shell has a tradition of disturbing marine environments, especially off the coast of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico where it uses seismic testing to search for oil.
Shell helped pioneer seismic technology, and has been sending sound waves below the surface of the ocean ever since. The blasts from seismic guns reach volumes that can cause permanent hearing loss, disorientation, brain hemorrhaging and death in marine mammals. When they lose part or all of their hearing, marine mammals cannot find food, avoid predators or communicate with each other. As a testament to this, in June over 100 whales were stranded off the coast of Madagascar near a site where Exxon was performing seismic surveys . Shell is continuing its seismic surveys this summer off the shores of Alaska, despite a court injunction that forbids them from drilling wells because of environmental and cultural concerns.
Perhaps some of the most influential advertising Shell is doing these days, is its non-traditional advertising. These new concepts include a “Shell World” magazine and a “Shell Dialogues” website. These communications seem to try to engage the public in matters regarding energy production, all the while portraying Shell in a green light. Both the magazine and website include short stories about “green” technologies, like biofuels, cooking oils, and carbon capture and storage, and emphasize Shell’s hope to bring these technologies to market – even though they are not a part of the company's core business. Shell does not acknowledge in these communications that the company’s main operations are responsible for large, devastating environmental and health impacts that make most of these “green” initiatives miniscule by comparison. For example, in the July issue of "Shell World", there’s a feature story about smog in Beijing and the health impacts citizens are facing . The article never mentions that smog is caused in large part by burning gas in vehicles, or that Shell is planning to build a large new refinery in China.
Used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.