In any field, there are major players who stand out. Each industry has certain companies that everyone simply knows by name. They are often the largest or wealthiest, and they almost always dominate the rest. Considering this, when it comes to coal, Southern Company is infamous. It is the eighth largest utility company in the world and the second largest in the United States, getting the majority of its energy supply from coal. But the company also gets a significant amount of its notoriety from its many other crooked practices. Greenpeace has long investigated Southern Company for funding Senators like Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who has worked to overturn the EPA’s authority on the Clean Air Act, and the company’s legacy of dedicating effort and money to prevent other clean energy futures as well.
See here for Greenpeace’s effort to publicize Lisa Murkowski’s connections to companies such as Southern Company, Exxon and Chevron.
Southern Company is among the top five highest carbon dioxide emitting power companies in the world, according to Carbon Monitoring for Action. In 2006, one of the company’s subsidiaries was sued for violating the Clean Air Act and another of it’s plants in Georgia is facing environmental justice issues for being too close to residencies.
Given these facts, when we saw that Southern Company had bought a half page ad in the Washington Post earlier this month depicting a cartoon figure holding a chunk of green colored coal, it seemed a little suspicious. It seemed like greenwashing. The ad claims that Southern Company is “working toward building the world’s first zero-emissions, coal-fired generating plant” and “is spending $3.9 billion over the next three years to lower coal emissions.” But the message is hard to believe when considering the true nature of this company. In fact, it’s a 360-degree turn around from what has traditionally defined the company.
One underlying message clearly depicted in the ad is the idea of Carbon, Capture and Storage to create the so-called “zero emissions” plant. CCS is a process of capturing and then storing CO2 from point sources, such as coal-fired power plants, underground. The company alludes to this process in the advertisement with the statement, “..if you’re looking for the best energy solution, start with what’s under your feet.”
But CCS is not any kind of proven solution to take care of CO2. In fact, Greenpeace believes it actually fosters the dependence on fossil fuels.
Another prominent theme in this ad is “common sense.” It states at the top, “Common sense says don’t eliminate what you can make cleaner,” and toward the bottom reads “powered by common sense.” However, knowing about this company’s history and the science behind coal, it seems more sensible to say that there isn’t any truth to this ad.
The background of this company makes this advertisement a perfect example of greenwashing and any efforts they claim to have toward clean energy null and void. They are a coal company and revolve around something that will never be clean or safe.
Green coal will always exist only in the mind of a sketch artist; Never in reality and especially not from a group like Southern Company.
Used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.