The Unsuitablog

Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

General Electric: Greenwashing Experts

Posted by keith on September 21st, 2009

GE Greenwashing Experts

An innocuous little email was sent to me the other day, and had it come from a small company that only makes light bulbs then I might have let it pass. But it didn’t come from a small company that only sells light bulbs; it came from the 12th largest company in the world, the fifth largest in the USA — General Electric.

GE, as they have generally always been known, are pushing compact fluorescent light bulbs as the answer to the world’s energy problems; as the email makes clear:

There’s no question that GE Energy Smart® bulbs give consumers the energy-saving benefits they want and the high-quality lighting they expect. With a complete family of different shapes and sizes, consumers have energy-friendly lighting options for nearly every room in their homes – including decorative fixtures.

If every household in the U.S. replaced ONE light bulb with an ENERGY STAR® qualified GE Energy Smart® bulb, consumers would save:

a.. A combined national total of $600 million a year in energy costs.
b.. Enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gasses equivalent to the emission of more than 800,000 cars.

Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR® is a national campaign encouraging all Americans to join with millions of others and take small individual steps, like changing a light bulb, that make a big difference in the fight against climate change. ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. Take the Pledge.

Apart from the bile-inducing statement, “There’s no question that GE Energy Smart® bulbs give consumers the energy-saving benefits they want”, which takes assumption to the whole new level (although, as I don’t consider myself to be a “consumer”, then maybe in a strange way, they are right…); is the statistical blunderbuss approach to this press release. For one, changing a single light bulb will reduce power consumption by a paltry 45 watts at most, which is about 15% of the power consumption of a plasma TV screen, and utterly trivial compared to the amount of energy consumed by a vacuum cleaner or oven. Second, it also waves around the “x million homes / people / cars” statistic, which always sounds impressive (yes, I was guilty of this once) but falls down as soon as you realise that they are only talking about the lighting for those 3 million homes, which also comprise only around 2% of US homes.

Then there is the “doing your bit” myth: the idea that we can all save the world by doing bugger all, like changing one lightbulb. You would imaging that GE would want to sell lots and lots of lightbulbs, but don’t forget — and here’s where it starts to get interesting — they are also an energy generation and transmission company, which makes big bucks out of providing electricity to millions of homes. If each home cut its electricity consumption by, say 50%, then it would be a financial catastrophe for the generation and transmission arm of GE.

What GE are creating is a “win-win-win” for themselves: (1) they look like a “green” company, (2) they ensure that they remain financially viable as an individual corporation and (3) they perpetuate the “doing your bit” myth which is essential to the continuation of the brainwashed consumer society.

It’s quite remarkable that I haven’t covered GE here already, but it has been excellently covered by DeSmogBlog, who paid particular attention to GE’s “clean coal” adverts:

Forget “clean coal.” Energy giant General Electric thinks coal is downright sexy.

This “coal-is-so-clean-its-sexy ad” was pulled by General Electric a while back, but it goes to show just how far some will go to sell clean coal.

Strange choice of music for the ad – “Sixteen Tons” by Merle Travis is a song about the misery of coal mining.

Why not spend a few moments reflecting on this, while you also ponder GE’s magical light bulbs…

Given that EVERYWEBSITE in the General Electric armoury appears to have “the environment” at the very top of its agenda — yes, that really does include coal, aviation and oil — I think we might be seeing more of this brutal monolithic corporation on The Unsuitablog pretty soon.

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