This week, Planet Green's Focus Earth program airs an episode on greenwash. In the episode Bob Woodruff interviews environmental and corporate watchdog expert Kenny Bruno, author of Greenwash and Corporate Environmentalism, and myself from Greenpeace, to answer the question: are corporate green efforts for show only, or can they actually make amends for decades of un-sustainable, even downright harmful, business choices? Woodfuff also gets up close with leaders from Royal Dutch Shell, Ford Motor Company and Duke Energy to examine their environmental statements and actions.
Dan Weiss of the Center for American Progress looked into this and reported that:
" Duke Energy is not alone. It is a member of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity—a front group of 48 big coal, utility, and other companies—which has already spent gobs of money on advertising, but invested little in the development of CCS technology. Like Duke, ACCCE’s other member companies are much more committed to the idea of clean coal than investing to make it a reality—as their research budgets demonstrate. An analysis of their investments found that they spent less than two cents in research on “clean coal” for every $1 of profit. And even though new legislation would fund technology to make clean coal a reality, ACCCE has yet to show any support for it."
Weiss' analysis of current CCS projects does list Duke as a participant in three CCS research projects, however Rogers comments would lead us to believe that this participation is minimal.
The legislation referenced by Wiess is the "America Clean Energy and Security Act" sponsored by Reps Henry Waxman Ed Markey which offers huge subsidies to CCS research and development. Sounds to me like Rogers and ACCCE are waiting on the government to invest taxpayer dollars before they will shell out any green.
So what are Duke and other ACCCE members willing to spend their money on? ACCCE has a communications budget for 2009 of $40 million. Right, and lets not forget the $9.9 million spent last year on lobbyists. Oh- and the combined $15.6 million spent by ACCCE member firms to federal campaigns.
So the question that remains unanswered is, if Jim Rogers won't invest in CCS why should the US taxpayers?
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.
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.
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.”
Anyone that pays attention to the news and science, and not the desperate ads put out by the coal industry, knows that "clean" coal cannot be typed without quotes around "clean." Clean coal has been debunked thoroughly, and even the coal companies are beginning to pick up on their failed "facts."
This, however, has not led to any admissions on their part, only clever copy writing and continuing attempts to obscure the truth. Peabody Energy's latest ad is full of greenwash, offering us the chance to refute the coal industries' lies point by point.
The ad opens with:
"Clean coal means energy security, jobs and economic stimulus along with a cleaner environment."
The coal industry often tries to present itself as the savior of the American economy. While the coal industry does, of course, offer jobs, this is not a mutually exclusive arrangement. As the President and his advisors have noted, a clean economy would offer millions of new, green-collar jobs as well as a wellspring of economic stimulus.
In addition, the promise of "a cleaner environment" excludes, apparently, the air. Power plants are responsible for nearly 40,000 near-fatal heart attacks per year, almost 3000 instances of lung cancer, and countless asthma cases and assorted respiratory and cardiac illnesses. These effects are felt much more acutely in those areas near coal-fired power plants than in areas with little to no coal plants nearby, which is yet another reason to keep the "clean" in quotes.
"What is clean coal?"
"Part One of clean coal has taken place in recent years, as billions of dollars in new technologies scrub away emissions."
One of the most common greenwashing practices is taking credit for what the law requires of them. Or, as Stop Greenwash puts it, "It's the Law, Stupid!"
For instance, the toxic emissions that the coal companies so helpfully scrubbed away- sulfur oxide and nitrous oxide -not only are such emission reductions required by law, but using these scrubbers requires more energy, resulting in even more CO2 pollution.
"Part Two builds on this with new, efficient coal-fueled power plants with reduced carbon footprints. Eventually, carbon capture and storage will allow plants to recycle the CO2 back underground in deep storage or even oil fields, increasing U.S. oil production."
Again, the greenwash in this paragraph is subtle--the ad suggests that carbon-capture and storage is an inevitable technology soon to be sweeping the nation In reality, the technology is not yet ready for utility use, and experts believe it couldn't be deployed any earlier than 2030.
Carbon-capture and storage, first and foremost, wastes energy. Using 10-40% of a power plant’s energy, CCS could literally erase the efficiency gains made in the last 50 years. For every four CCS plants, another five would be needed to power them; all the "clean coal" industry offers the American public is false hope.
Lastly, carbon capture and storage would raise the cost of electricity of 21-91%. So much for coal being America's affordable electricity.
"Americans overwhelmingly support the use of coal. A landslide 72% of opinion leaders recently said yes to the use of coal to generate electricity and 69% say coal is a fuel of the future."
According to CoalCanDoThat.com, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity was the sponsor of this study. Perhaps this would indicate it is not as scientific and unbiased as one would hope—a textbook greenwash.
"So let's use coal to deliver energy security, more jobs and a stronger economy. And let's solve the technology and regulatory hurdles to let America recycle its carbon."
Carbon-capture and storage does not recycle carbon, by which they mean carbon dioxide, the second most-abundant greenhouse gas, but you wouldn't know it if you only read "clean" coal ads. Carbon capture and storage involves the separation of carbon dioxide, either before or after the fuel is combusted. The carbon dioxide is then sequestered in underground geological formations, such as oil fields, or pumped into the ocean.
The carbon dioxide would never be reused for energy, and in fact, could pose a risk to nearby communities if it leaked out of the sequestration.
In the end, then, what Peabody Energy and its accomplices are attempting to sell the promise of an unproven and unfeasible technology. They want the public to put up with dangerous, dirty, coal-fired power plants today, with the empty reassurance that sometime later, they'll clean it up.
Coal is hardly the energy solution America, and the world, needs.
P.S. All the specifics in this article were pulled from "False Hope," the comprehensive Greenpeace report on the myths and lies of carbon capture and storage. You can read the PDF here.
Update: We sent the letter out, and you can download a PDF of the official, signed version here.
January 22, 2008
Immediately after President Obama's inauguration speech, you began running television ads that splice together quotes of the President's in a manner promoting "clean coal" but deliberately misrepresenting his energy campaign platform. Buying the very first ad run on CNN after the speech shows the weight of the $40 million dollars you have spent in the past year on prime advertising real estate.
The footage in your latest ad was apparently taken from President Obama's September 9th speech in Lebanon, VA. The ad shows him saying, "[C]lean coal technology is something that can make American energy independent." Then a screen with text flashes "Clean Coal - creating jobs" before another video clip from the same speech with the President's words: "And by the way, we can create five million new jobs, in clean energy technologies."
The ad thereby implies that President Obama intends to create five million jobs with "clean coal," which you know is false. The President’s New Energy For America plan outlines the creation of "five million new green jobs" with a broad swath of investments in energy efficiency, weatherizing homes, aggressive deployment of renewable energy and plug-in hybrid cars. Coal is the next to last thing on the list. Even in your wildest dreams, so called "clean coal" will never create millions of jobs.
In addition, your ad co-opted President Obama's signature inspirational campaign slogan, dubbing in a crowd chant of "Yes we can!" over what in real life was just a round of applause.
Greenpeace considers the myth of "clean coal" and Carbon Capture and Storage to be a dangerous distraction and false solution to the climate crisis. As prioritized by Energy Secretary Chu and the President's agenda, energy efficiency and renewable energy have stronger and more crucial role to play in America's energy future. However, regardless of differences of opinion on the role of coal in our nation’s energy future, false advertising and misinformation is unacceptable.
We call on you to withdraw this ad campaign and publicly redress these false representations of President Obama's environmental policy. Your misinformation campaign around clean coal continues to corrupt an informed debate in the quest for energy alternatives, environmental security, and real energy solutions.
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.
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Used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.