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.
"The company has predicted that by 2025, 80% of energy will come from fossil fuels and 20% from alternative energy sources. Yet it is spending just over 1% of its budget on alternative technologies. Over the past five years, only $1.7bn of the $150bn it has invested has gone towards alternative energies."
In Shell’s latest ad, they let us know that "[p]erfecting CCS won’t be easy, but we believe it is needed to tackle CO2 emissions."
Shell Oil Company’s parent, Royal Dutch Shell, did once own Shell Coal, before selling off its American and Australian mining operations to other companies, but now Shell is wholly concentrated on its oil and gas business. Yet on the "Real Energy" website, which advertises their alternative energy efforts with cutely animated power plants and refineries, the majority of the text is dedicated to their "carbon management" efforts. Carbon management, apparently, mostly involves the gasification of coal and then supposed capture and storage of resulting carbon dioxide emissions.
According to Shell’s website, "the CO2 from gasification [of coal] can be more easily captured than from smokestacks – potentially for storage underground." This implies that Shell, through the development of coal gasification technology, is doing its part to fight global warming—even though gasification only benefits the climate when paired with the non-existent, unfeasible CCS.
So Shell gets to license its gasification technology to China, whose coal plants have no plans to even try for carbon capture and storage installations, while earning some of the $2.4 billion alloted for CCS research in the latest stimulus package.
Appropriately, Shell’s own attempts to take "clean coal" technology a step beyond their gasification have all suffered major setbacks. Australia’s Queensland project, promoted repeatedly on their website, was recently shelved and another "clean coal" test project, worth $5 billion dollars, has been put on indefinite hold. Clearly, carbon capture and storage has already proven itself economically inefficient.
In addition, this is money that might have gone to developing true, renewable energy sources—if, that is, Shell hadn’t pulled out of solar energy years ago and more recently, withdrawn even from windfarms—though, of course, they still advertise their wind energy investments.
Shell’s greenwash hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed; a previous ad of theirs, using the same cute and cartoonish imagery, was banned by the UK’s advertising authority for misleading consumers. The ad promoted a carbon neutral company that was, at the same time, aggressively developing tar sands harvesting.
The United States also has a government body dedicated to regulating advertising; hopefully, the FTC will step in and do its job. This ad, with its deceptive "green" imagery and CCS lies, perfectly demonstrates the misleading potential of a well-executed greenwash.
If Shell really wanted to "tackle CO2 emissions," they’d stop supporting the coal industry, and instead put that money back into solar and wind energy. But that’s too much to hope for, isn’t it?
I’ll tell you why…because right now selling, producing, and investing in fossil fuels which simultaneously destroy this lovely little planet of ours is extraordinarily profitable business. But at what cost?
Exxon Mobil released its groundbreaking fourth quarter numbers for 2008. Groundbreaking all right—a whopping $45.2 billion dollar profit—blowing away their previous record of $40.6 billion…an 11% increase. Unbelievable right? Well not necessarily… just think back to July when oil was an unheard of $150/barrel. Add on top of that the billions of dollars in subsidies that we pay them (we being the taxpayer that is) and you have a recipe for mass destruction and mass profit. Cha-ching.
Despite a 70% drop in the price of oil in the fourth quarter, and with it, a 33% drop in earnings, ExxonMobil still made out like a bandit. Check out the break down—they made a profit of $123,835,616 dollars a day, $5,159,817 dollars an hour, $85,996 a minute, and if you haven’t gotten the point by now this should do it—a staggering $1,433 dollars a second! Not to shabby eh?
Needless to say, this is indeed another milestone in the world of corporate profits and yes ExxonMobil did in fact break its own previously held record—a record set in 2007 of $404 billion dollars in sales. Sales shot up to $477 billion in 2008. To put this in some perspective, in 2007, ExxonMobil’s sales exceeded the GDP of 120 countries. Well…all this money being made in the oil biz makes one pause and wonder how other parts of the energy sector are doing-- say for example-- the wind and solar industry? The short answer, not good.
In 2008 both the solar and wind industry grew—the latter substantially. The problem is, with the financial crisis and the lack of sizeable subsidies akin to the fossil fuel industry, both the solar and wind industry have already begun to significantly scale back projections and have already cut jobs. For instance, Clipper Windpower, one of only two U.S. owned turbine makers “laid off 90 employees—about 11% of its workforce” and is already seeing a “20% drop in production compared to 2008.”
Well…how about the outlook for solar? Unfortunately it’s even worse. As CNN’s Todd Woddy said back in October, “The message from Wall Street: The credit crunch will wallop big solar plant projects that need billions of dollars in financing to get built.” That pretty much sums it up.
While Exxon brings home more cash then any corporation in the history of the world during a severe economic crisis, the renewable energy sector continues to get “walloped” by the economic downturn and the continuation of the same old lackadaisical approach by government to renewable energy in America. Let’s hope things change. Lord knows, the climate sure needs some hope.
The tension built as the judges deliberated. Then at last the results were were all in and - ta-da! It was time to announce the winner of the first annual Greenpeace 'Emerald Paintbrush' award for greenwashing above and beyond the call of duty. Cue a quick roll on the drums, and step forward into the spotlight - BP!
The energy corporation with an income larger than most of the world's nation states has spent a lot of time and money restyling itself as being 'Beyond Petroleum' in recent years, but a trawl through their accounts quickly reveals just how empty that assertion really is - 'Back to Petroleum', more like it.
Strangely enough, when our dinner-jacketed and bow-tied representatives turned up at the British oil giant's London headquarters this morning to present the handsome, bright green, mounted paintbrush to group CEO Tony Hayward, they were unceremoniously ejected.
The prize was offered in recognition of the company's attempts to greenwash its brand over the course of 2008, in particular its multimillion dollar advertising campaign announcing its commitment to alternative energy sources. Slogans such as "from the earth to the sun, and everything in between” and “the best way out of the energy fix is an energy mix".
The reality, you'll be unsurprised to learn, is somewhat different. We got our hands on internal company documents (summarised in the chart above) which clearly show that this year the company allocated 93 per cent ($20bn) of its total investment fund for the development and extraction of oil, gas and other fossil fuels. In contrast, solar power (a technology which analysts say is on the brink of important technological breakthroughs) was allocated just 1.39 per cent, and wind a paltry 2.79 per cent.
The same presentation reveals that BP intended to spend just $1.5bn this year on all forms of alternative energy – including wind power, wave, solar, tidal, and biofuels and even including some "efficient" natural gas projects. This amount represents just 6.8 per cent of their total investment.
The reality is that BP is one of the world's largest single corporate emitters. In 2007 alone the company released over 63 million tonnes of CO2 into the earth's atmosphere, roughly equivalent to the emissions of Portugal. But while their adverts announce the arrival of a fresh approach, BP boss Tony Hayward continues to describe alternative energy only as "a valuable option for the future". Too little, too late Tony.
A final word from our man at the impromptu awards ceremony, James Turner:
"You wouldn't know it from their adverts, but BP bosses are pumping billions into their oil and gas business and investing peanuts in renewables. They've won the 2008 Emerald Paintbrush award because their slogans suggest that they are serious about clean energy, while their actions show they're still hell-bent on oil extraction."
And now, a video from the award ceremony itself.
The Wall Street Journal's environmental blog reported last week (1/9/08) that ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson expressed support for a carbon tax, “somewhere north of” 20$ per ton. Mr. Tillerson’s position wouldn’t be that surprising if he was from an environmental group, or if he was an economics professor, or just about anyone besides the chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil.
Yes, ExxonMobil, they of the eponymous and disastrous Valdez oil spill, the financial backer of dozens of global warming denial front groups – more than $20 million since 1998 according to ExxonSecrets.
Is this greenwashing?
On the one hand, Tillerson’s support was expressed in a public speech, covered by a variety of news organizations; with oil prices dropping, projected profits down, and general public backlash against the super-profitable oil companies. Tillerson and ExxonMobil could use a little favorable PR and what amounts to free advertising right about now.
Strikingly, however, ExxonMobil hasn’t advertised its newfound decision to fight back against global warming, or maybe this move by Tillerson was a trial balloon. It still advertises its super-duper, technoptimist image inside the covers of Newsweek and the like, but no mention of its support for carbon tax. Is this the moment we have been waiting for? Has an oil company finally begun to support green policies with seemingly no promotional benefits? Have they seen the light?
Obviously, my rhetorical questions lead to the inevitable no.
Tillerson came out with his announcement just as the Obama administration, stuffed with supporters of the cap-and-trade system, prepares to take office, backed by a Congress that has also begun pushing for a cap-and-trade system. More importantly, perhaps, other oil companies such as BP and Shell have joined the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), which states in it’s Call to Action report: “Cap and Trade is Essential. Our environmental goal and economic objectives can best be accomplished through an economy-wide, market-driven approach that includes a cap and trade program that places specified limits on GHG emissions.” USCAP includes General Electric, General Motors, Ford, Alcoa and Exxon’s oily brethren at ConocoPhillips, Shell and British Petroleum.
Thus, these other corporations are on a slightly different page than Tillerson and company. ExxonMobil, though, craves legitimacy in the climate change policy discussion. Tillerson said as much last week; as paraphrased by a New Yorker blog, “Exxon had to weigh in now to avoid risking irrelevancy when the Obama Administration and Congress begin negotiating later.”
Yet they don’t want to acquire this credibility at the cost of their own profits. Cap-and-trade systems, besides making polluters pay, allow lawmakers to set clear, scientific goals of emission reductions–-hence, the CAP. The carbon tax, conveniently, has no inherent end goal, or limit on pollution. So presumably, if the company can afford it, and Exxon-Mobil can, pollution could be more cost-effective than cleanliness. Also conveniently, the tax on Exxon’s carbon would ultimately be passed on to consumers.
Don’t get us wrong, a carbon tax is not a bad idea. A tax could indeed be implemented as part of a strategy to implement a national goal of reductions. But what we really need, and scientists are pleading for, is a definite cap on global and national emissions, and a steep reduction over coming years and decades.
Greenpeace told reporters the following: if Exxon is convinced that a carbon tax is the right option, let their ever-so-smart engineers and economists demonstrate a tax rate and structure that gets us the 25-40 percent reduction in (industrialized country) carbon emissions scientists say is needed by 2020, and the 80-90 percent reduction needed by mid-century to stave of dangerous climate change.
We, here at StopGreenwash.org, don’t particularly expect a response to the challenge.
ExxonMobil, then, has begun to acknowledge the problem of global warming just in time to gum up legislative motions to address the problem. Carbon tax, with Tillerson’s endorsement, might now garner approval by other corporations, or maybe a few once-reluctant Representatives and Senators, and water down the growing green momentum. Hopefully, Congress will stay the course and design strong and tight US climate law.
So my once burgeoning optimism about ExxonMobil's once not-actually-burgeoning conscience here ends
Used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.