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Archive for the 'Techno Fixes' Category

British Airways To Cut Emissions 40% In Just 3 Days (Video)

Posted by keith on 18th March 2010

Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways has committed the company to cutting aircraft emissions by 40% in just 3 days. From Saturday 20th March, BA will only be operating around 60% of their previous flight schedule, in a drive to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions.

This is a remarkable turnaround for a company that has strived to ensure offsetting, rather than direct reductions, is seen as the method of choice for the air transport industry. Other operators are considering similar cuts, with British Airways looking to make up to 100% cuts in emissions within 10 years. This will ensure the industry plays its part in helping prevent the worst effects of climate change.

Watch the video here.

[Oh, ok, it’s a spoof – the strike has struck, and the planes have been grounded. Now that’s how to cut emissions!]

Posted in Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy, Spoofs, Techno Fixes | No Comments »

Crazy Green Claims Make PR Company Look Stupid

Posted by keith on 18th February 2010

It’s painful to watch this, but if you really want to see a giant green marketing Weeble take centre stage at a presentation by a racing team that, by its own admission, will “dabble in just about anything that has wheels”, then feel free. It gets really silly about 5 minutes in.

But first is the email exchange between myself and Megan Palmer who works for a PR company, promoting a product that – and it gets a bit complicated here – has a part to play in the thing that they actually mention, as opposed to the thing they don’t mention which is the product they are supposed to be promoting! You’ll see what I mean if you keep reading…

From: Megan Palmer
Sent: Friday, February 05, 2010 1:09 AM
To: Megan Palmer
Subject: FW: Rick Ware Racing Video Press Conference Tomorrow at 3pm EST To Announce Green Sponsor


I wanted to introduce myself and invite you to participate in Rick Ware Racing’s Video Press Conference where they will announce our green client as their multi-year sponsor for NASCAR, right before Daytona 500 next week tomorrow during a live video press conference. I will be contacting you in the near future regarding this exciting green product.

The press conference is tomorrow at 3pm EST or follow them on twitter for more @rickwareracing

Hope you can tune in and I look forward to working with you soon!


Megan Palmer
Executive Account Manager
Public Relations & Events

ph: 305.856.8004 x: 304
fax: 305.856.8650
bb pin: 30FDCD98

Follow me on Twitter:

900 SW 8th Street C-2
Miami, Fl 33130

From: “Keith Farnish”
Date: Fri, 5 Feb 2010 09:25:10 -0000
To: Megan Palme
Cc: Keith Farnish
Subject: Re: Rick Ware Racing Video Press Conference Tomorrow at 3pm EST To Announce Green Sponsor

WHAT! How can a “green” client be a sponsor of a motor racing team?!

Please respond as this is astonishing.


Sent: Friday, February 05, 2010 11:28 AM
To: Keith Farnish
Subject: Re: Rick Ware Racing Video Press Conference Tomorrow at 3pm EST To Announce Green Sponsor

Good morning, maybe its better phrased as ‘eco friendly’. :) hope you can tune in.

Sent on the Now Network� from my Sprint® BlackBerry

On Fri, Feb 5, 2010 at 6:33 AM, Keith Farnish wrote:

That still doesn’t make sense, Megan. What part of motor racing is “eco friendly”?


From: Megan Palmer
Sent: Friday, February 05, 2010 11:54 AM
To: Keith Farnish
Subject: Re: Rick Ware Racing Video Press Conference Tomorrow at 3pm EST To Announce Green Sponsor

The product is “eco-friendly” but that’s only one component. It’s an automotive product, which is why they’re taking part in the motor racing sport. I can’t say too much more before the video conference. As I look further at your website maybe it’s not a fit for your type of “green” coverage. Sorry for wasting your time. :) Have a good weekend

My type of “green” coverage. As opposed to what? I assume Megan meant really gullible “green” coverage that dumbly reproduces anything that purports to be green in order to pack out its RSS feed.

[On a sidenote, one reason The Unsuitablog doesn’t have 10000 subscribers is precisely because it doesn’t dumbly reproduce every bit of cack sent to it in order to have 5 or 10 posts per day. I would like to think the people who read this actually care about the subject matter…]

So, much later on I watched a recorded version of the Rick Ware Press Conferenc because, for some strange reason, I didn’t feel like watching it live. It turns out that Megan’s client is (I assume) the makers of Fuel Doctor, the product represented by the Weeble. I popped over to their site and had a read.

Apparently, simply by plugging this little gizmo into the cigarette lighter port of a car, your mileage can improve by 25%. This is mightily impressive considering all it is is an electrical filter, much like the ones you can put between a power supply and an amplifier to (theoretically) improve the sound quality of a hi-fi. Which makes me rather concerned that hundreds of millions of people are driving around at any one time in highly complex pieces of machinery that are so badly made that a simple line filter can fundamentally alter the ability of an engine to process gasoline.

So it’s a good thing that it’s a complete load of bollocks.

The so-called “certified lab tests” show, in shattered English, between 0.055% and 0.5% fewer carbon dioxide emissions. Yes, this incredible “green” technology has the equivalent emissions improvements to cleaning a bit of dirt off the windscreen.

Now, I know the CO2 test is right, because it uses a standard piece of kit, used around the globe to a recognised level of accuracy. But in the test that produced 0.055% less carbon dioxide, the car used 16% less fuel! They have somehow contrived to create something that uses up to 25% less fuel, yet emits virtually the same amount of carbon dioxide. According to a link on their web site:

It should be noted that the majority of the Carbon (99%) coming out of an engine is in the form of CO2. This means that improvements in fuel economy result in reduced CO2 emissions.

How did they measure the fuel use? Well, nowhere does it actually say, except on one of the tests we see some rulers next to some measuring jugs containing alarmingly orange liquid. Anyway, as the man said, emissions should match fuel economy, and they don’t, so nothing on the Fuel Doctor site has any credence whatsoever.

And neither does sending out a press release claiming that something to do with a motor racing team is “green” :-)

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, Promotions, Techno Fixes | 2 Comments »

Swimming in Natural Gas: The Greenwashing of an Industry

Posted by keith on 13th January 2010

Gas Flaring

From COMMON DREAMS, January 4, 2010

There has never been a better moment for natural gas. It is the “other” fossil fuel, touted as a clean alternative to coal and oil. It may be non-renewable, proponents argue, but it is a bridge or transition fuel to a happier future. Not surprisingly, the industry has gone to great lengths to persuade local residents, members of congress, and the public at large that there’s nothing to worry about. Chesapeake Energy Corporation, one of the major players drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, which stretches from New York to Tennessee, has successfully billed itself as an environmentally friendly operation.

So when Cabot Oil and Gas, a Houston based energy company, was fined for several hydraulic fracturing fluid spills in northeastern Pennsylvania last year, Chesapeake took the opportunity to distance itself from what had become an embarrassing situation. In addition to the frack fluid spills, there were numerous reports of contaminated drinking water wells in Dimock, PA. On New Year’s Day 2009, a resident’s drinking water well exploded, ripping apart an eight by eight foot slab of concrete. The Dimock experience had the potential to become an industry nightmare, perhaps even derailing efforts to drill in New York State. “Certainly, when an operation isn’t meeting the regulations laid out by the state, it doesn’t reflect well on the industry,” Chesapeake’s director of corporate development for the company’s eastern division told a group of executives at an event in November.

The natural gas industry has had little trouble attracting powerful and influential boosters. It has been championed by oil and gas executive T. Boone Pickens, who happens to own Cabot and Warren Buffett, the oracle himself. At the inauguration of the Congressional Natural Gas Caucus in October, Pickens, the keynote speaker, declared, “We are swimming in natural gas.” Residents of Dimock, many of whom have sued Cabot for poisoning their water, may take a slightly different view of natural gas’s potential. In December, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection issued a consent order requiring that the company provide clean water or filtration devices to 13 families within a nine-square -mile area. They also slapped them with a $120,000 fine.

More recently, according to the Wall Street Journal, Chesapeake’s chief executive, Aubrey McClendon, has been touring the country alongside the Sierra Club’s Carl Pope trumpeting the benefits of natural gas. Its biggest selling point is that it burns cleaner than coal and oil, though the impact of extracting it from deep shale formations is highly controversial. It also requires the use of large amounts of diesel fuel to keep compressors and other machinery operating 24/7. Responding to criticism from local affiliates, particularly in New York and Pennsylvania, Pope asked, “Will the 20% of the membership that happens to live in places where drilling is happening be unhappy? I’m sure that’s true.” So much for grassroots organizing.

In early December I drove through Bradford County, PA and stopped in Towanda, the county seat. The small town of about 3,000 people, located on the Susquehanna River, is humming with activity. The Towanda Motel, on the northern edge of town, has been entirely occupied by Chesapeake employees since April. No Vacancy signs hang from the office window and a security guard keeps watch over the premises. The company’s fleet of shiny white pick-ups and SUVs can be seen everywhere, harbingers of what seems to be a very important mission. Nearly everyone I met had leased their land, from the young man who owned the Victorian Charm Inn where I stayed to the woman who worked in the county clerk’s office (open late now on Tuesdays and Thursdays to accommodate “abstracters,” company reps who comb through deeds going back to the early 19th century to find out if there might be any obstacles to acquiring mineral rights from local landowners). When I asked the owner of a local diner if things had improved in Towanda since Chesapeake came to town she replied curtly, “Sometimes.” Meanwhile, Chesapeake has opened a regional office in what was once an Ames Department Store on the south side of town.

On my way through I picked up a copy of the local paper, The Daily Review. Chesapeake had taken out a full page ad on the subject of hydraulic fracturing, describing the process as one that “pumps a pressurized mixture of 99.5% sand and water with a small amount of special purpose additives,” into a well bore to shatter the rock and release the gas. The ad goes on to note that, “The additives…include compounds found in common household products.” They fail to acknowledge, however, that the fracking formula, which varies from well to well depending on the geology of the region, is considered proprietary and we still do not fully know what is being pumped underground. The industry, which has been exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and CERCLA since 2005, has never been forced to publicly disclose the contents of the fluids it uses to fracture wells. The so-called Halliburton Loophole, inserted into the 2005 energy bill, was a gift of the Bush-Cheney administration (Halliburton invented the process of hydraulic fracturing), and essentially said that the EPA no longer had the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing.

Dr. Theo Coburn of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) has compiled what is probably the most comprehensive list of both drilling and fracturing chemicals based in part on samples from a well in Park County, Wyoming where a breach in surface casing released drilling fluids in 2006. They have uncovered 435 fracturing products that contain 344 chemicals including ammonium nitrate, ethanol, methane, and diesel. According to the TEDX Web site, “As natural gas production rapidly increases across the U.S., its associated pollution has reached the stage where it is contaminating essential life support systems – water, air, and soil – and causing harm to the health of humans, wildlife, domestic animals, and vegetation.”

Chesapeake has done a pretty good job of maintaining its environmentally friendly image, though two recent infractions reveal that accidents are perhaps inevitable and that Cabot Oil and Gas is not necessarily the exception.

On New Year’s Eve, evidence of a spill or contaminate release at a drilling site in Wayne County, PA was reported after aerial photos taken by an environmental watchdog group, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, uncovered damage to trees near a well pad. The photos show a row of dead, leafless trees extending from the drill pad. Chesapeake had not reported the spill, which would be a violation of state law if indeed they were aware that it happened. According to the Times Tribune, a “weathered petroleum product” was discharged into a forested area and soil samples show that it contained elevated concentrations of barium and chloride.

Perhaps more damaging were reports in early December of a large hydrochloric acid spill in Asylum Township not far from Towanda. The spill was said to have released 295 gallons of acid into the surrounding soil. According to the DEP’s consent assessment the acid contaminated soil was neutralized with soda ash and hydrated lime, 126 tons of impacted soil was excavated, and approximately 13,817 gallons of hydrochloric acid/water mixture were removed from the well site. According to a DEP spokesman, the contaminated soil was taken to a landfill in New Springfield, Ohio. Although Chesapeake reported the spill to the DEP in February when it occurred the clean up and investigation was only publicized in December after the company was fined a civil penalty of just over $15,500.

When I reached Asylum Township supervisor Kevin Barrett, who happens to grow corn just below the drill site, he said the company dealt with the spill responsibly. It was in a remote area of the township about a half-mile from a major water source or residence on land owned by a family that does not live there. Asked if he was worried that his corn might be contaminated with hydrochloric acid, he said the spill was small and posed no threat to humans, wetlands, or wildlife.

However, according to the DEP report, the estimated leakage rate was 7.5 gallons per hour, though “Chesapeake personnel did not know how long the tank had been leaking.” Chesapeake notified the DEP on February 9, 2009 that a leak had been discovered at around 9 a.m. A DEP representative arrived at 1 p.m. and Chesapeake’s emergency contractor six hours later. If we take the company’s figure of 295 gallons of spilled acid that means the tank was leaking for close to 42 hours. Presumably the tank was leaking hydrochloric acid for nearly 30 hours before anyone knew anything about it or bothered to report it to the DEP. So was all of the contaminated soil contained and removed?

Accidents do happen, Barrett told me. It’s part of the price of doing business. Something McClendon and the Sierra Club’s Pope might like to acknowledge as they make the case for an industry whose green credentials are far from certain.

“But we have to find a cheap alternative to coal!” Scream the denizens of Industrial Civilization, scared that perhaps the foundations of their beloved, energy-hungry world are starting to crumble. Keep screaming, one way on another it’s going to end in tears.

Posted in Corporate Hypocrisy, NGO Hypocrisy, Should Know Better, Techno Fixes | 4 Comments »

The Copenhagen Communiqué: A Right Royal Greenwash

Posted by keith on 27th December 2009

Corporate Communique

(This is a guest post by David McKay, environmental activist and writer)

The Greenwash presses have been running over time recently with the Copenhagen climate talks ever present in the news. Apart from the greenwash provided by the conference itself to its participants, companies have been keen to use the opportunity to claim that they, too, want to see a ‘good deal for the climate’. Apart from the very obvious nature of Hopenhagens attempt, as has been shown in previous posts on this blog, there have been some less obvious campaigns. One that caught my eye recently is ‘The Copenhagen Communiqué’, which has recently appeared as a stamp in the corner of many companies newspaper adverts and websites. Given that these companies included such luminaries as EDF energy, this stamp needed some investigation.

The Copenhagen Communiqué is a project of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders’ Group on Climate Change, a group of ‘business leaders’ the prince has got together who supposedly all care a lot about climate change, along with The University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership. They’ve also issued a communiqué for both the Bali and Poznan conferences, so are quite an established group. For many established readers of the Unsuitablog, the concept of business leaders issuing advice on climate change might already raise a few eyebrows, especially as the many signatories include BAA, Shell, BP, Asda, Rio Tinto, Unilever, Adidas, Statoil, Nestle, Coca Cola… just about all the corporations with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of consumerism and industrial civilisation all in one list. Here’s what they say:

This communiqué is being issued by the business leaders of over 500 global companies. It calls for an ambitious, robust and equitable global deal on climate change that responds credibly to the scale and urgency of the crises facing the world today.

Earlier this year, the world’s twenty largest economies (G20) came together and agreed an unprecedented, coordinated response to the global economic downturn. At the London Summit, the leaders of the G20 pledged to do “whatever is necessary” to restore confidence and growth to the economic system.

World leaders now need to demonstrate the same level of coordination and resolve to address climate change. Economic development will not be sustained in the longer term unless the climate is stabilised. It is critical that we exit this recession in a way that lays the foundation for low-carbon growth and avoids locking us into a high-carbon future.

Within the first few paragraphs the intention of the communiqué is already clear – that their primary goal is not to protect the victims of climate change, and the earth’s biosphere but to protect their prosperity and profits. Some might argue that as long as this helps stop climate change that this isn’t a problem, but will these corporations really support the action necessary to combat climate change, or just appear as such and take advantage?

…it will create the conditions for transformational change in our global economy and deliver the economic signals that companies need if they are to invest billions of dollars in low carbon products, services, technologies and infrastructure.

Note how these ‘leaders’ are simply asking the government to make it profitable for them to invest in these new technologies, not taking the initiative themselves. Only if the taxpayer can guarantee them profits will they do anything. But why do they care so much about these low-carbon technologies if the old dirty ones continue to be profitable?

Action at the sector level will help accelerate the large-scale deployment of clean technologies through robust funding solutions, technological transfer and capacity building. The least developed economies need additional assistance including increased and adequate financing, and expanded cooperation to help them adapt to and join the new low-carbon economy.

Here it becomes clearer. The corporations will create the new technologies if the government subsidises them, then they will sell them to the poorer nations in order for them to meet their targets, and those poorer nations will use money from western governments in order to purchase these technologies, money which no doubt they will end up paying back at a later date.

Measures to deliver a robust global greenhouse gas emissions market…

They also ask for carbon markets, which corporations could then use carbon markets as they have done with the European trading scheme, lobbying and persuading governments to issue too many permits, resulting in low carbon prices and effecting their operations very little.

Measures will be needed; to deliver a step-change in energy efficiency, to promote the rapid development, demonstration and wide deployment of low-carbon technologies and also to stimulate new markets for low-carbon goods and services. These measures will include ambitious performance and efficiency standards, bold public procurement commitments, and the development of incentives. Robust intellectual property protection as well as other enabling policies are key.

Communique Signatures

It is clear what these corporations are seeing in this text is not so much a bold statement on how to prevent dangerous climate change, but how to develop themselves new markets using taxpayer money and subsidies from government, and increase the dependence of poor nations upon them. However, this aim is neatly covered up with environmental rhetoric, with noble-sounding statements on limiting temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius, helping poorer nations adapt and limiting deforestation elsewhere in the text. But these are being used to mask the real mission behind these companies – to make money from climate change.

Posted in Campaigns, Celebrity Hypocrisy, Corporate Hypocrisy, Techno Fixes | No Comments »

New Scientist Becomes A Mouthpiece For The System

Posted by keith on 22nd December 2009

New Scientist Corporate

For my Christmas present last year, I subscribed to New Scientist. It was a good present, because I like to keep up with the latest climate science and there was certainly a lot of that in 2009; most of it pretty worrying. There are also some really good articles about human psychology and more abstract ideas of existence – a few years ago I set myself the impossible task of trying to find a reasonable way of explaining the nature of the universe and whether it can indeed be infinite. Clearly I haven’t got their yet, but have been helped along the way by New Scientist.

I won’t be subscribing in 2010.

Without initially looking through the latest edition (Christmas 2009), I can confidently say that there is enough pro-corporate, anti-life rhetoric in that single issue to counterbalance everything good that the magazine does contain. Let’s take a look…

A full page advert by IG Index, promoting commodity trading (oil, gold, coffee, cocoa etc.)

P12: A piece entitled “At last, guilt-free piste bashing at a greener resort”, which actually says nothing of the sort about skiing – the software in question just uses erosion as a business risk factor.

P19: In a review of the year to come, a piece called “Electric Dream”, about electric cars or “green motoring” in which the phrase “If this is the future of green motoring, sign us up.” Yet, it is not an opinion piece, so why the hyperbole?

In the middle: An 8-page supplement sponsored by the greenwashing Carbon Trust, called “Clean Tech Pioneers”. The term “Clean Tech” has been identified by Corporate Watch as one of the classic buzz-phrases to be avoided, because it is just a way of making profit from climate change.

This edition was pretty exceptional for not containing a lot of advertising, probably because it is the more popularist Christmas edition, so the demographic is different, but go back a week and you find:

A two-page “Blueprint for environmental research” including (again) electric vehicles, carbon capture and storage, biofuels based on GMOs and geoengineering. Just because the research is happening, doesn’t make it good research.

A full page advert for Delta Airlines.

A full page promo for the next week’s “Clean Tech Pioneers” greenwashing fest.

A full page advert by Nestle, promoting a trivial Fair Trade agreement.

A full page advert by IG Index (see earlier)

A review of “Storms of my Grandchildren” by James Hansen, containing the astonishing phrase: “Extraordinarily, Hansen thinks civil resistance is now the only way forward…the third reason his book is so terrifying.”

While being a sterling campaigner on the side of good climate science vs. corporate denial, New Scientist appears to have recently got itself stuck in a bizarre, self-perpetuating loop that it doesn’t seem willing to wriggle out of: in essence, New Scientist has become a cheerleader for the corporate system. This is exemplified in the large number of full page greenwashing ads it carries, with no sense of irony, for the very corporations that fund climate denial thinktanks and astroturfs: in 2009, every issue except for the Christmas one carried as least two such adverts. Furthermore, any suggestion that technology does not hold the keys to a sustainable future is either poo-pooed — as per the Hansen review mentioned above — or simply ignored, as per the series of editions entitled, “Blueprint for a Better World” which laid out a cornucopia of techo-fixes, conventional economic and political “solutions” and all sorts of hopes for future technological research.

Alright, it’s a science magazine, what else should I expect? What I should expect is a sense of balance.

The science they republish is good science; it is balanced by its nature, and thus New Scientist really has no choice but to publish what the scientific body is saying. On the other hand, a great deal of New Scientist content is opinion-based, and thus subject to bias. If they are going to be so willing to carry the greenwashing adverts of corporations among the plethora of technological guides to the future (bearing in mind that technology, as opposed to science, is not neutral), then if NS is going to be seen as balanced, then it makes sense to also carry articles that show, not only that there are no current technological-based “solutions” that fulfil the required greenhouse gas and environmental degradation reduction criteria, but that the real solutions probably have nothing whatsoever to do with technology.

This is tragic, because when it tries, New Scientist really does manage to produce some fantastic articles. Sadly, though, because it has become so enamoured by the corporate system, what was once an excellent magazine has become something I am now ashamed to have in my house.

Posted in Media Hypocrisy, Should Know Better, Sponsorship, Techno Fixes | 2 Comments »

Bring On The Strike: Greenwashing British Airways In A Tailspin

Posted by keith on 17th December 2009

British Airways Denial

Oh, the sheer hubris is making me smile so much! Unite, the union responsible for the welfare of cabin staff at British Airways has moved well ahead with plans for a 12 day all-out strike designed to ground the majority of British Airways craft over the lucrative Christmas and New Year period; and won’t it be a corker if it goes ahead:

Bruce Carr QC, representing the airline at a packed hearing yesterday, said the union was “depriving literally millions of people of a happy Christmas”.

He added: “The apparent recognition of the deliberate timing is highlighted by the fact that Unite needed to make [the strike] 12 days of Christmas, not 10 or 14 … It knew the number has a resonance for the many passengers who are deprived of flying with BA.”

Let’s suppose that the striking workers manage to ground half of BA’s fleet from just Heathrow and Gatwick for this period. Stephen Bowler’s plane spotting website gives a good estimate of 500 flights from the two airports every day, with about 40% being long-haul (more than about 5000 miles). It’s difficult to extrapolate precisely, but assuming each an Airbus A320 emits just over 9kg per kilometre travelled that’s…

…about 45 tonnes of carbon dioxide per flight (with an average of 5000 km per flight)…

…about 22500 tonnes of carbon dioxide per day…

…about 42750 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per day, due to 1.9 multiplier from high altitude flying…

…about 256000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent prevented from being emitted over the strike period, assuming half of planes are grounded.

Wow! That’s the same as the entire Central African Republic emits in a whole year. And that’s just direct emissions. I’ve taken into account the people who would have gone to other airlines in my 50% “grounding” figure, because it could be as much as 90% grounding if the strike is solid, but there are a hell of a lot of people who would think again about flying over the Christmas / New Year period if they were to experience a season at home again. Many, many of these people are habitual fliers who can’t imagine any other way of communicating, and heaven help anyone who wants to stop them exploring the world — but the cabin crew might manage that.

In case you think I am attacking British Airways out of hand, bearing in mind that aviation accounts, at the moment, for a relatively small proportion of global emissions, then you need to see the kind of nefarious tactics that BA have been using to convince us all that flying isn’t really a problem, and they are even one of the good guys when it comes to planetary ecocide.

First, their own web site, containing the following statements about the “efforts” they have been making to cut emissions:

We have actively campaigned for aviation to be included in global carbon trading since 2000.

We were the first airline in the world to gain practical experience through participation in the UK Emissions Trading Scheme, which enabled us to reduced our UK carbon emissions by 23%.

As a direct result of our efforts, the EU carbon trading scheme is going to include the aviation industry from 2012.

Exactly how did BA reduce its emissions by 23%? They didn’t cut the number of flights — oh no — they simply purchased a load of “permits” to pollute (actually, were virtually given them by the pro-flying UK government, but that’s another story) and struck them off their carbon balance sheet. Job done. Or rather, greenwash done. With aviation in the European scheme from 2012 there will be even more opportunity for BA to sweep their emissions under someone else’s carpet.

Second, they are a key member of Future Heathrow, an organisation promoting the (deep breath) “sustainable” expansion of London Heathrow airport. This is classic greenwash from their web site:

It has been suggested that the environmental costs of Heathrow outweigh its economic benefits but if capacity at Heathrow continues to be constrained, foreign hubs such as Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris will grow instead. This will not provide any climate change benefits but would severely damage the UK’s global competitiveness and UK jobs.

Of course, everyone in the UK will suddenly move to Germany, Holland or France so they can fly from there. Alternatively, without the expansion there will be fewer options for the airlines to seduce people into flying, so they might just stay at home ;-) And, of course, as part of Future Heathrow’s climate change mitigation, they will also be turning to emissions trading in a big way to “offset” the increase in Heathrow’s emissions (hang on, didn’t they say that the emissions wouldn’t increase overall?)

More about Future Heathrow can be found in this Unsuitablog article.

Third, British Airways are also a key member of the pro-flying lobby group Flying Matters. Ironically, for this article, the trade union that BA are fighting against, Unite, is also a member. Among their charming comments from their Press section is this one, essentially saying that the Archbishop of Canterbury is going to hell for suggesting people should grow their food locally:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called air-freighted food “unsustainable” and wants it to be replaced by homegrown produce from thousands of new allotments.

Dr. Williams made his comments in an interview with the Times, in which he also said that he tried to have a “flight-free year” in 2008, but didn’t manage to.

Although Dr. Williams said he wanted to avoid creating an “instant crisis” in developing countries whose economies rely on the ability to export fresh food to market, FlyingMatters Director Michelle Di Leo told The Times that “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

Alternatively, we could listen to Rowan Williams and not fall into the trap of thinking globalisation is what the financially poor nations of the world need – hey! Maybe they should be allowed to grow food for themselves rather than forcing them into market-led trade subservience.

British Airways, The World’s Most Hypocritical Airline.

STOP PRESS: The strike has just been ruled “Illegal” by the High Court of England. That’s 256000 tonnes of carbon dioxide likely to be pouring into the atmosphere over Christmas once more…

Posted in Astroturfs, Corporate Hypocrisy, Offsetting, Techno Fixes | 2 Comments »

A Message For Anyone Who Thinks COP15 Copenhagen Is Important

Posted by keith on 9th December 2009


“It isn’t.”

Ok, that was a bit short, but it’s true. The Copenhagen conference is an irrelevance, unless you are one of those kinds of people who like watching thousands of politicians rub shoulders and exchange platitudes, after which they attend a variety of meetings out of which will come precisely nothing that will have the slightest bearing on the future of the planet.

So here’s my promise:

If a watertight deal comes out of the two week conference that promises at least a net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (including deforestation), based on 1990 levels, by 2015; and a net global reduction, again on 1990 levels, of at least 60% by 2030 — then, and only then, will I shut down The Unsuitablog.

These figures are not just finger-in-the-air stuff; they are derived from the work of some of the finest climate scientists working today — those that care about the quality of their work rather than whatever funding they might receive from Corporation X. Funnily enough, it’s just those figures that will spell the end of the Industrial Machine because, except through some fundamental change in the entire global system of energy production and resource consumption, these cuts require the global economy to contract by the same amount.

No one attending COP15 Copenhagen would ever dare entertain the idea of a shrinking economy: there’s no profit in it, and who the hell would vote for it when we have all been told the most important thing we can have is a healthy fiscal system? More importantly, the corporations that run the industrial world will simply not allow it to happen; so it won’t.

My offer still stands. Who’s going to start the ball rolling?

Posted in Government Policies, Political Hypocrisy, Techno Fixes | 2 Comments »

General Electric: Greenwashing Experts

Posted by keith on 21st September 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.

Posted in Adverts, Corporate Hypocrisy, Promotions, Techno Fixes | No Comments »

The American Dirty Energy And Insecurity Act: Worse Than Nothing

Posted by keith on 10th September 2009


Also known as Waxman-Markey, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) which is currently sitting in the US Senate awaiting approval, is being hailed by the environment mainstream as a real answer to anthropogenic global warming. Anyone with half a brain will realise that this is utterly false. One group, calling themselves Climate SOS, are making this point very loudly, and have written the following article just for The Unsuitablog.

Lots of mainstream enviros, especially those involved in the US Climate Action Partnership, are promoting the recent house climate bill as a great step forward. Then there are a bunch more who think it is “better than nothing”…or “the best we can get under the circumstances…”

This would seem a bit too compromised given the near daily reports about how climate change is the greatest threat of all to national security, that methane is spewing from the seafloor beds a million times faster than expected, the Arctic sea ice is melting 80 years ahead of IPCC’s worse case scenario predictions, and may be altogether gone in just a few years, setting in place the runaway warming associated with reduced albedo….and the island nations are sinking.

Best we can get under WHAT circumstances?

As soon as Waxman and Markey introduced their bill to the House, special interests who either want to maintain their business as usual, or position themselves to benefit most from disaster capitalism, began swarming over the halls of Congress to ensure the financial flows come their way! With a carbon market estimated to be valued in billions, this should not be too surprising.

The result, the “American Clean Energy and Security Act” utterly fails to promise much, if any, significant emissions reductions. In fact, James Hansen has called it “worse for the environment than doing nothing”. The targets IN THEORY would provide for somewhere around 1 to 4 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 68 to 71 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. But that is only “in theory” because in reality, the huge offset provisions – 2 billion tons, annually-could actually permit an INCREASE in emissions through 2026! And even these calculations assume that offsets actually work. That assumption is not supported by number of analyses that illustrate the difficulties with determining “permanence and additionality”, not to mention actually getting accurate measurements of carbon flows. It is almost humorous to glance at the list of “eligible technologies” for agricultural offsets embodied in the Peterson amendment: special feed mixes for livestock that make them belch less (how to measure permanence and additionality here?); durable goods, like rocking chairs and tables made from wood; no till agriculture practiced by farmers growing GMO soy and using roundup instead of tilling to control weeds…Somehow this does not inspire confidence.

On top of these weak goals, the bill relies on a risky cap and trade mechanism. Cap and Trade has been the darling of US Climate Action Partnership, perhaps because they observed what happened in Europe when it was tested under the European Trading Scheme and the worst polluting industries made windfall profits, passing on the costs of carbon credits to their ratepayers. In fact, the system has been tried in a number of contexts and found vulnerable to gaming, unreliable and prone to manipulation. New market bubble anyone?

The bill also provides supports for the worst false solutions, like biomass burning. Generating enough electricity for 1 megawatt of electricity requires bout 13,000 tons of wood per year! And regrowing the trees may take decades, if at all. A recent study published in science points out that so long as we classify biomass as carbon neutral and therefore eligible for supports as renewable, while fossil fuel use is taxed, we will be right on track to turning ALL of the worlds remaining forests and grasslands into bioenergy plantations by 2065. As if protecting the last bastions of biodiversity were not difficult enough.

Finally, ACESA would repeal EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. This would essentially remove one of the only regulatory tools we have at our disposal for reducing emissions. Does that make any sense at all?

Let’s face it, with somewhere around 90 million dollars spent by lobbyists in association with the climate legislation so far, we should not be too surprised at how concessions were handed out to virtually all who asked. Like greedy children bashing open a piñata, all the special interests scrambled for their share in one of the most horrible demonstrations of “failure to lead” imaginable! With the entire future of life on earth at stake, this is the best we can do?

Utterly disgusted, a band of activists, calling itself “climate sos”, is mobilizing to oppose the bill, yes oppose the bill; same “ask” as the American Petroleum Industry astroturfing “energy citizens”, but very different reasons. They state that the bill is worse-than-nothing, should be defeated, and they are prepared to employ nonviolent civil disobedience to make their point. Policy makers, they say, must go back to the drawing board and come up with a REAL bill, one that rises to the challenges we are facing rather than pandering to special interests. The international negotiations in Copenhagen are around the corner, and Obama has stated his determination to demonstrate “strong leadership”, but the U.S.will have to dish up something quite a bit more serious than a Senate bill that uses ACESA as its’ model. People in the US. and abroad who are already coping with the disastrous impacts of climate change are not likely to sit quietly accepting this dismal lack of leadership much longer.

Very thought-provoking, and worrying. Thanks to Rachel for the words.

Posted in Government Policies, Offsetting, Political Hypocrisy, Techno Fixes | 2 Comments »

Can’t Reduce Emissions? Find Some Other Way To Screw It Up.

Posted by keith on 4th September 2009


Civilization has singularly failed to reduce its emissions, and so the planetary climatic, oceanic and biological systems are running into repeated and major tipping points, plunging us into increasingly dire trouble. No, this is not the future, this is now – there is nothing we can do about the greenhouse gases that Industrial Civilization has so far poured into the atmosphere, and there is very little indeed we can do to reverse the widespread effects of deforestation, marine ecosystem plundering and the multitude of different persistent chemicals currently polluting the food chain.

But we can stop things getting worse than they might. According to the Royal Society, what we need to do is to geoengineer the climate. The following story from The Independent outlines the “Plan B” project that is being drawn up by the Royal Society; see what you think:

Some of Britain’s most distinguished scientists have put their names behind controversial proposals to engineer the global climate with highly ambitious technology projects if international attempts to control man-made emissions of greenhouse gases show serious signs of failing.

The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of sciences, has warned that if political leaders fail to reach agreement and enforce a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions following the climate conference in Copenhagen this December there may be no other option left than to introduce drastic measures involving the “geo-engineering” of the global climate.

A group of eminent scientists appointed by the Royal Society said in a report published yesterday that future efforts to reduce greenhouse gases needed to be much more successful than they had been so far if geo-engineering was to be avoided as a way of cooling a dangerously overheated planet.

“Geo-engineering the Earth’s climate is very likely to be technically possible. However, the technology to do so is barely formed, and there are major uncertainties regarding its effectiveness and environmental impacts,” the report says.

Geo-engineering projects range from schemes to fertilise marine plankton with iron powder to injecting sulphate particles into the atmosphere in order to simulate the cooling effects of volcanic eruptions. All are controversial and none are without some risk but they should nevertheless be taken seriously if conventional measures to limit carbon dioxide emissions fail to stop potentially dangerous climate change, the Royal Society said.

Professor John Shepherd, an earth scientist at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, who chaired the Royal Society’s working group, said that geo-engineering had to be prepared as a backup in case the “plan A” discussed in Copenhagen fails. “[Geo-engineering] is a plan B, but a very real plan B that has to be taken seriously,” Professor Shepherd said.

“It is an unpalatable truth that unless we can succeed in greatly reducing carbon dioxide emissions we are headed for a very uncomfortable and challenging climate future, and geo-engineering will be the only option left to limit further temperature increases,” Professor Shepherd said.

“Our research found that some geo-engineering techniques could have serious unintended and detrimental effects on many people and ecosystems yet we are still failing to take the only action that will prevent us from having to rely on them,” he said. “Geo-engineering and is consequences are the price we may have to pay for failing to act on climate change.”

The report recommended that Britain should spend £10m a year on research into geo-engineering schemes, which is about a tenth of the Government research budget on climate change.

The Royal Society’s report, which took 18 months to prepare, was welcomed by Professor John Beddington, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, who said that it was time to treat geo-engineering seriously. “Some kind of modest investment in geo-engineering is what we should be thinking about now,” Professor Beddington said.

“There are going to be emergencies that we did not expect and we need to think about how to deal with them. Geo-engineering techniques are not the solution but they are part of the solution.”

In the past decades, geo-engineering has gone from almost pariah status to a subject that scientists can talk about in public without fear of ridicule. However, many climate scientists are worried that political leaders will use the debate to suggest that there is a workable alternative to deep and painful cuts in carbon dioxide emissions.

“Geo-engineering is creeping on to the agenda because governments seem incapable of standing up to the vested interests of the fossil fuel lobby who will use it to undermine the emissions reduction we can do safely,” said Doug Parr, from Greenpeace. “Intervening in our planet’s systems carries huge risks.”

‘Plan B’: The weapons in science’s armoury

Spraying seawater into the air to generate clouds and injecting sulphate into the atmosphere to simulate the cooling effects of volcanic explosions are two geo-engineering ideas considered by Britain’s leading scientific body. A Royal Society report defines geo-engineering as the deliberate, large-scale manipulation of the environment to counteract climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

The report divides geo-engineering schemes into two categories: techniques to remove carbon dioxide from the air to counterbalance emissions directly, and projects to offset the warming effects of increased greenhouses gases by reflecting sunlight into space. In terms of solar radiation, the report reviews ideas ranging from painting roofs white to space-based mirrors. It says these technologies are cheaper and faster-acting than carbon dioxide removal but have several drawbacks: they don’t address the root cause of global warming or ocean acidification.

It says methods to remove carbon dioxide would be preferable to solar radiation management methods, because “they effectively returned the climate system to closer to its natural state” and involved fewer uncertainties and risks. The problem with many carbon-reduction schemes that do not involve reforestation is that they are largely unproven and expensive. One idea is the enhanced weathering of silicate rocks, a natural process where carbon dioxide in the air reacts with silicate minerals to form carbonate rocks which effectively trap the gaseous carbon dioxide. Another is the capture of carbon dioxide by devices that can filter the air, perhaps using solar energy to power the process.

A variation on this theme is the proposal to fertilise the oceans with iron to stimulate algal blooms that could in theory capture carbon dioxide and convert it to solid material which would fall to the seabed. But the Royal Society warned of that project’s possible unintended consequences for the marine environment.

Let’s get this straight, as Doug Parr said, geoengineering is an excuse for corporations and governments to do nothing. Worse than that, by producing this report the Royal Society have, in effect, announced that “even” if business and governments don’t manage to reduce emissions sufficiently (which they obviously have no intention of doing), there is something waiting to take up the slack at the end of the rainbow. Cue even more reasons for everyone to do absolutely nothing – hooray, technology will save the day!

It is important to stress the comments in this article, by Royal Society members, about the inherent dangers of geoengineering — they cannot be stated strongly enough:

“Geo-engineering the Earth’s climate is very likely to be technically possible. However, the technology to do so is barely formed, and there are major uncertainties regarding its effectiveness and environmental impacts”

“Our research found that some geo-engineering techniques could have serious unintended and detrimental effects on many people and ecosystems yet we are still failing to take the only action that will prevent us from having to rely on them”

But those, deeply important statements will be conveniently swept under the carpet when the shit hits the fan, as suggested by John Beddington, Chief Scientist for UK Government Incorporated. And the Royal Society themselves are so obviously in thrall to the lie that there is only one way to live, as evidenced by the statement: “geo-engineering will be the only option left to limit further temperature increases”.

So, when I said at the beginning of this piece that we could stop things getting worse than they might, what was I thinking about? Certainly not geoengineering, which is the last catastrophic hoorah! in the civilized world’s great toxic party. Something far more radical in civilised terms, yet completely logical:

Getting rid of Industrial Civilization.

If you consider the alternative, then that doesn’t sound too bad at all, does it?

Posted in Government Policies, Political Hypocrisy, Public Sector Hypocrisy, Techno Fixes | 2 Comments »