Greenwash is a new word [both
noun and verb] derived from the word ‘whitewash’.
Those who greenwash pretend to work for the environment, while
doing no such thing. An example is major companies who claim that
they are offsetting their carbon emissions, but are not in fact.
The following linked .pdf file is a useful review, with a helpful
pardoner’s return - the growing art of greenwash
“Catholic doctrine maintains that to avoid time in Purgatory
after you die, you need to expiate your sins via some sort of
punishment or task that is an external manifestation of your repentance.
The idea was that the clergy were doing more of such actions than
their meager sins demanded, so they effectively had a surplus
of good deeds. Under the logic of the emerging market, these could
be sold as indulgences to sinners who had money, but not necessarily
the time or inclination to repent for themselves. Chaucer’s
The Pardoner's Tale immortalised the sale of such indulgences
by pardoners, which was essentially how the church took a market-based
approach to sinning as a means of income generation. The Brazilian
theologian Dr. Odair Pedroso Mateus pointed out in 2001 that indulgences
are "not about grace and gratefulness but about exchanging
goods, about buying and selling, about capitalism".
“Many centuries later, there are new indulgences on the
market in the form of carbon offsets. The modern-day Pardoners
are companies like Climate Care, the Carbon Neutral Company, Offset
My Life and many others. These selfstyled ‘eco-capitalists’
are building up what they claim are ‘good climate deeds’
through projects which supposedly reduce or avoid greenhouse gas
emissions. These wholesale emissions reductions can then be profitably
sold back at retail prices to modern-day sinners who have money,
but not necessarily the time or inclination to take responsibility
for their emissions, and can afford to buy the surplus ‘good
deeds’ from the offset companies.”
“CO2 is absorbed by trees as part of the carbon
cycle, an incredibly complicated set of chemical, physical, geological,
and biological processes passing carbon through the earth's biosphere.
The carbon cycle can be divided into two parts: active and inert.
Trees are part of the active carbon cycle, a continual movement
of carbon among plants, organisms, water and the atmosphere. In
contrast, reserves of fossil fuels are inert: the carbon they
contain is locked up and does not come into contact with the active
part of the carbon cycle unless we burn them. Movement of carbon
between the active cycle and the inert pool is one-way - once
carbon is released from the inert pool by burning fossil fuels,
it enters the active cycle. It will not return to the inert pool
unless it undergoes the same sort of millennia-long geological
process that transformed it into a fossil fuel in the first place.
“This fact holds numerous implications for plantation
offsets. Firstly, there is scientific uncertainty surrounding
the complicated exchanges of the active part of the carbon cycle.
There is a huge degree of variation in estimates of how much CO2
trees are capable of absorbing and for how long they store how
much of it, so it is impossible to tell with any degree of accuracy
how many trees you would need to plant in order to accurately
‘neutralise’ your emissions.
“One of the
more recent examples of this scientific uncertainty was a study
published in Nature in January 2006, which showed that trees and
plants are responsible for emitting a lot more methane (another
of the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change) into the
atmosphere than had been previously thought, contributing something
in the region of 10 to 30 per cent of the annual total of methane
entering the earth's atmosphere. Dr. Richard Betts of the Hadley
Centre, a climate monitoring organisation, commented that while
the research would not greatly influence predictions of global
average temperature, "it shows how complicated it is to exactly
quantify reforesting or deforesting in comparison with current
fossil fuel emissions".
“A study published in
December 2006 by the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Stanford,
California concluded that most forests do not have any overall
impact on global temperature. "The idea that you can go out
and plant a tree and help reverse global warming is an appealing,
feel-good thing," said Ken Caldeira, a co-author of the study,
"to plant forests to mitigate climate change outside of the
tropics is a waste of time.”
credibility of all offsets projects is further undermined by the
fact that today's emissions are not the equivalent of emissions
being ‘neutralised’ over a period of time. The reason
why the offset companies can argue for carbon neutrality is they
are using a carbon calculation method that is best termed ‘future
value accounting’. Carbon savings expected to be made in
the future are counted as savings made in the present. This is
the same technique used by Enron to inflate its profits with such
disastrous consequences. Each time someone offsets their emissions,
the amount of CO2 emitted is automatically in the atmosphere,
whereas the period of ‘neutralisation’ takes place
over a much-longer time period, sometimes 100 years. If that person
keeps offsetting regularly, their rate of emissions increases
rises at a much faster rate than the rate at which their activities
are being ‘neutralised’ to the point at which, far
from being climate neutral, quite the opposite is true. The carbon
in the atmosphere increases at a far greater rate than it's supposed
is a very interesting elementary analysis of the conmanship behind
so-called carbon offsetting. You will find the alleged carbon
offsets do no such thing in any serious sense (examine the graphs
in the appendix). Much of the claimed offset schemes are, in fact,
primarily funded by other agencies who also tend to take the vast
majority of the financial burden of the schemes. Even the legality
of the supposed/alleged rights purchased
by the ‘offsets’ are often dubious, unenforceable
and unreliably maintainable for the number of decades claimed.
This greenwash, combined with the poor reasoning often
exhibited in society, is confusing many people. This document
gives some examples of current progress in developing economic
alternatives to fossil fuels, alternatives that eventually should
reduce industrial/communal carbon footprints.
It is not
enough to install ‘clean’ methods of fuel generation.
The manufacturing and installation costs need to be considered,
as well as the production costs.
Alternative power generation
methods will only be truly viable when all their costs are lower
than those for generating power using fossil fuels.
nuclear energy - 1.66¢ per kw
US nuclear industry generated its second-highest amount of electricity
ever last year, while also reaching record low production costs,
the Nuclear Energy Institute said Tuesday.
“ The industry
group said 103 nuclear plants nationwide generated 787.6 billion
kilowatt hours of electricity last year, just off the 788.5 billion
kwh record set in 2004.
“At the same time, production
costs sank to a record 1.66 cents per kilowatt hour in 2006, despite
three years of price increases for uranium, the fuel used in nuclear
panels costs going down, but not yet cheaper than traditional
“Energy from solar panels
currently costs 22-40 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared with the
national average consumers now pay of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour
from traditional sources.”
the difference between nuclear production costs and consumer prices.
There is also the delivery system to consider, a factor which
can be bypassed by photovoltaics.]
“Innovation and lower manufacturing and installation
costs will make solar-generated electricity competitive with other
sources of power supplied to the grid, experts said.
panels cost residential consumers about $7 to $10 per watt and
commercial buildings $5.50 to $7.50 per watt, compared with over
$100 per watt in the 1970s.”
that as a generalisation, traditional generating capacity is approximately
$1000 per kw.]
This is a very misleading
article but interesting never-the-less. In Germany and Japan,
solar generation is highly subsidised.
solar power generation, there is a major storage problem that
just seems to evaporate when the sales pitch starts!
“The "tipping point"
will arrive when the capital cost of solar power falls below $1
(51p) per watt, roughly the cost of carbon power. We are not there
yet. The best options today vary from $3 to $4 per watt - down
from $100 in the late 1970s.
Mr Sethi believes his product
will cut the cost to 80 cents per watt within five years, and
50 cents in a decade.”
say, electricity utilities are watching the solar revolution with
horror. Companies in Japan and Germany have already seen an erosion
of profits because of an effect known "peak shaving".
In essence, the peak wattage of solar cells overlaps with hours
of peak demand and peak prices for electricity in the middle of
the day, crunching margins.”
revolution: the economic transformation of the global energy industry