Archives for: April 2009
Not too long ago, Stop Greenwash dissected a stellar bit of greenwash from Peabody Energy, one of the world's largest coal companies. We examined their methods and broke apart their lies, but we never really codified the system that the coal industry used to coopt the environmental movement.
Luckily, a leaked memo from the President of the ACCCE to the CEO of Peabody Energy does just that:
"More than a year ago, New York Governor Pataki proposed an eleven-state regional CO2 cap and trade program. CEED has been engaged in this effort from its beginning. Persuading Pennsylvania and Maryland (as major coal-consuming states) to stay on the sidelines, rather than signing onto this initiative, has been one element of our strategy. The other element is to pose voluntary sequestration and technology as the correct policy, rather than mandatory controls."
"Our strategy in dealing with mercury has been two-fold: prevent states from taking precipitous or unwarranted action to regulate mercury and engage in the federal rulemaking to protect the interests of coal-based electricity."
are just two of the choice quotes from the memo. You can read the whole thing if you want, but beware: any doubts you held as to whether or not these clean coal advertising campaigns were a blatant attempt to manipulate public discourse and interfere with global warming initiatives, well...yeah.
The last paragraph of the ad reads:
“Producing more. Conserving more. Improving farmers’ lives. That’s sustainable agriculture. And that’s what Monsanto is all about.”
Is this the same Monsanto that manufactured Agent Orange?
Does “improving farmers’ lives” include forcing genetically modified crops on farmers, and leaving them to suffer when those crops fail?
Or suing farmers when Monsanto’s GM crops mix with other crops?
Listing Monsanto’s offensives against farmers and agriculture the world over would take more time than Monsanto is worth; but the presence of Monsanto in the ineptly titled “Environmental Leadership” demonstrates how thoroughly these green sections of the newspaper are vehicles for greenwash. Though most of the articles are, in fact, by CEOs promoting their company’s boutique green project, even they don’t take up as much space as, for instance, Lockheed Martin’s jump onto the greenwash:
You might have seen Energy Star labels before—on dishwashers, websites, and buildings, they’re everywhere and advertise the stamped product (or whatever else) as meeting the EPA’s strict energy guidelines. What the corporations and the Environmental Protection Agency are trying to tell you is: Go ahead, buy this product. You won’t be hurting the environment. In fact, you’ll be saving it!
Except, unfortunately, that the Energy Star award is as meaningless as any product’s claim to “natural” or “organic” or “green” status.
As Consumer Reports noted recently, Energy Star’s testing procedures don’t resemble real world use. And, as a result, any manufacturer can get virtually any product the Energy Star award. Which is why 93% of dishwashers qualify.
If you do want to help the environment and reduce energy use, you should use the Department of Energy’s Energy Guide, a label that lets you compare the actual kilowatt per hour cost of one product as compared to another.
This type of transparency and specificity is what environmentally-conscious consumers need, not a brightly colored and easily achieved Energy Star. If the EPA is serious about helping consumers use less electricity, they should update their standards to better reflect real-world energy usage, and make the Energy Star a real, and green, achievement.
Some corporations, employing the 'Dirty Business' greenwash tactic, create (or just buy) a boutique "green" brand in an effort to distract from the majority of their environmentally unfriendly products.
To find out which tissue and toilet papers are made from recycled content, and which aren't, visit the Greenpeace guide here.
The website of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers features friendly green stripes, and a green logo with tracks heading toward a green horizon representing, in the words of their mission statement: “[dedication to] providing safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient automobiles that produce less CO2.” Their website also features windmills, polar bears, and a plethora of other greenwash imagery, almost to the point of self-satire.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is, of course, made up of “green” car companies such as GM, Ford, Toyota, and Volkswagen. In other words, the Alliance is a lobby group funded by these companies.
Together, these otherwise fiercely competitive corporations are working for a common goal—a cessation of California and other states’ attempts to reduce vehicular greenhouse gas emissions. The car companies claim that they are doing enough as it is, and state-based regulations of their tailpipe emissions would ruin them, financially.
However, the Auto Alliance’s protest seems very familiar. Back in the 1970s, GM warned the EPA, “[I]f GM is forced to introduce catalytic converter systems across-the board on 1975 models, the prospect of an unreasonable risk of business catastrophe and massive difficulties with these vehicles in the hands of the public must be faced.” Catalytic converters were shortly after introduced and found to work fine, and customers continued to consume Detroit’s cars.
Similarly, the Auto Alliance’s spiritual predecessor, the Automobile Manufacturer’s Association, discussed the proposed Clean Air Act in 1970, a government effort to regulate national pollution standards, with a certain degree of panic or deception. They claimed: “It presently appears that it will simply not be possible for vehicle manufacturers to achieve the control levels specified in the bill with any fossil fuel-burning engine-including steam, gas turbines, etc., as well as internal combustion engines.” The Clean Air Act, of course, passed and has been amended several times since then—it began the gradual improvement of America’s air quality.
Again, do these protestations sound familiar?
Yet, despite the automakers’ continuing opposition to California’s determined fight against global warming and greenhouse gases, despite their history of false claims and un-environmental practices, and despite the “impossible” technical hurdles they face, they still find the money to lobby congress and run ads like, well, this:
The United States passed Germany to become world #1 in wind power installations, and China’s total capacity doubled for the fourth year in a row. Total worldwide installations in 2008 were more than 27,000 MW, dominated by the three main markets in Europe, North America and Asia.
Global wind energy capacity grew by 28.8% last year, even higher than the average over the past decade, to reach total global installations of more than 120.8 GW at the end of 2008. Over 27 GW of new wind power generation capacity came online in 2008, 36% more than in 2007.
The excuses for avoiding renewable energy keep falling apart, don't they?
“The reality is that smart grid technology in one form is already required by 42 states. Although alternative energy may benefit from this new service, there are myriad ways that it will improve consumer spending and carbon emissions without adopting better alternative energy efforts. Ecomagination’s stated goal is to ‘meet customer demand for more energy-efficient products’ by investing in ‘innovative solutions to environmental challenges.’ The character of this statement is fair, but it belies the company’s larger corporate identity and its history as one of the country’s worst polluters.”It’s the Law, Stupid!
Many companies, as evidenced by this website’s very existence, greenwash their brands in an effort to appeal to an increasingly environmentally-conscious consumer base. Waste Management, North America’s largest trash collection and recycling corporation, takes this to a new level, as their greenwashing threatens to become a brand in and of itself.
Waste Management began their “Think Green” campaign in 2006, with a series of nationally televised commercials promoting their recycling efforts:
Their Think Green website besides, Waste Management has also gone on to create greenopolis, an online community for environmentalists to discuss their opinions and projects in the glowing sponsorship of American’s largest polluter.
As 24/7 Wall Street, a blog offering “insightful analysis and commentary for…investors,” explained in a recent post:
“According to Elizabeth Royte, a journalist for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s onearth, since 2005, Waste Management has spent more than $90 million on TV commercials and print advertisements emphasizing the number of trees it saves through recycling, the amount of land it has set aside for wildlife habitats, and how much energy it generates through incineration.
"However, what the ads fail to disclose is that burning trash doesn’t come without a price. Although the technology continues to improve, incinerators still discharge small levels of mercury, lead, and dioxin into the atmosphere. Royte also writes, 'They also generate more carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of energy generated than do power plants, and their ash is toxic.' An additional consequence of incineration is that it discourages using landfills. Because power plants that use incinerators require a consistent flow of garbage, they are necessarily antagonistic to principles such as recycling, composting and reducing waste.”
More good news from the anti-greenwash front: local DC activists have taken on Chevron's (in)famous "Will You Join Us?" greenwash campaign. I'd go on, but this picture says it all...
As reported on DC Indymedia, Chevron's history of dumping toxic wastes and supporting gross human rights violations presents an interesting backdrop for their campaign of individual responsibility. You can see more products of the sticker-wielding activists in their gallery, here.
More evidence of BP not actually being "Beyond Petroleum". The company accounced yesterday that BP Solar will sharply curtail manufacturing operations around the world, a cost-saving move that will result in the loss of 140 jobs at a solar panel plant in Frederick and 480 at two factories in Madrid.
According to the Washington Post,
"The moves by BP Solar, which casts silicon into parts that are assembled into solar panels in Frederick, come as companies in the green-energy industry attempt to slash expenses in light of global economic pressures. The companies, according to analysts, are struggling to remain competitive with the price of petroleum, which has fallen from its record highs in the last several months...
"This comes at a time when solar markets are unsettled by the impact of the global economic environment, an over-supplied market, increased competition and rapidly falling prices," BP Solar chief executive Reyad Fezzani said in a statement.
Meanwhile, also yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee released draft climate legislation that would require 25% of US electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025. Wouldn't that make this a great time to invest and ramp up solar operations? Seems like it to us.
Fred Pearce in The Guardian recently pointed out that Shell has sold out on its renewable promises, claiming they are 'not economic'.
At a time when new bosses at Exxon in the US are making overtures to Barack Obama's idea of a new green deal to fight climate change, Shell is going back to the bad old days.
In recent years, Shell has invested more than $1bn in the most commercial of the new renewable industries, wind power. It claims to have more than 500MW of wind power capacity altogether — the equivalent of half a regular power station.
It was chicken feed for them. But many hoped for more. Then last year, Shell pulled out of what would be the world's largest offshore wind farm in the Thames estuary. The London Array would have tripled its wind capacity.
The company claimed at the time that it was going to concentrate its renewables business in the US. Now that promise has quietly disappeared. Last week, its head of gas and power, Linda Cook, told reporters: "We do not expect material amounts of investment [in wind and solar] going forward." Biofuels will still get cash. Everything else is back into cold storage.
Used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.