Let's face it - being 'green' is the new cool. But sometimes an ulterior, industry-driven motive lurks behind the 'green halo' that we trust in so-called environmental organizations. This blog is dedicated to keeping individuals and organizations who claim to be for clean, renewable energy accountable.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fox in the Hen House

This (clearly home made) video is a little hokey but really, really funny. It probably came out in response to the commercials airing right now against Proposition 7. I don't know if you guys noticed, but if you see the commercial, check out the very end. The 'environmentalists' that oppose Prop. 7 are listed just above the caveat "major funding from PG&E and Southern Cal Edison." Anyway - enjoy this video:

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Why Does Everyone Hate Clean Energy?

Doug Korthof hit the nail on the head today in the Orange Coast Voice when he asked the question: “Why does everybody hate clean energy?

I’ve framed this blog in the context of Proposition 7, but Korthof eloquently reminds us that the groups opposed to Prop.7 are the groups who have a vested interest in keeping solar and clean energy from taking off.

I certainly disagree with his criticism of Proposition 7. Korthof focuses on rooftop solar as a solution, but 40% of green house gas emissions in CA come from power plants. The burden of getting off dirty fossil fuels should be on the largest producers of it, which is what Prop 7 is designed to do. PG&E is very happy to tell us we should change our light bulbs. How about PG&E change theirs? Plus, CA has an aggressive solar rooftop plan in place, but the Legislature just failed again at increasing the RPS requirements. But, the important point here is that we need a comprehensive solution to California’s energy needs and Prop. 7 along with rooftop solar are definitely two key pieces to that solution.

Having said that – here’s what caught my eye about Korthof’s article. Solar rooftop programs were stalled by the same cast and crew now opposed to prop 7 (the last paragraph really captures the conundrum):

"The big utilities were granted a monopoly to control the electric supply, and they want to maintain it. Opposition to rooftop solar rooftop power by the utilities is trenchant and determined.
It isn’t only utilities that suffer. Those companies that supply fuel to the power plants, such as coal, natural gas and uranium vendors, and the unions that are needed to run the plants, all are afraid of a loss of control, power, jobs and/or business.

Prop 7 forces utilities to buy more renewable power and creates a mechanism for solar concentrator plants in the desert run by the utilities. It is silent about distributed rooftop power; so it doesn’t do much, but it’s still too much for the power brokers.

Certainly the utilities could have reached out to local homeowners, paying for solar PV systems on otherwise unused roofs. Instead, SCE is fighting against cities like Oxnard, trying to put in dirty “peaker” plants that are only needed in the daytime. SCE never considered using the same amount of money ($45 million) to find 4,500 solar homes in Oxnard willing to solarize their rooftops.

Utilities have fought the implementation of solar power instead of promoting it even though it solves their peak usage problem. They prefer fiery out-of-state coal plants.

Environmental groups stood by while Schwarzenegger put substantial obstacles in the path of anyone daring to put solar on their own private property. Under the guise of stopping citizens from ripping off the solar tax rebate, he required a complex system of “predicted performance” that makes the cost uncertain and requires dozens of pages of new red tape.

If solar power were promoted, we’d have clean electric power. But the utilities would have less political power, unions less work, pols fewer bribes, and the enviros would not have an issue on which to raise money. So in a sense, the united opposition to this measure shows what a farce our “energy policy” has been."

A sad reality check that's very nicely put. Proposition 7 would all but wipe away this co-existence and THAT'S why everybody (that is, the utilties, enviros, etc.) hates clean energy.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Big Utility Propoganda Campaign - Texas style

Periodically on this blog I’ve talked about questionable activities by Big Utilities in other states, like when Colorado’s Xcel spent millions trying to quash a measure in 2004 much like CA’s Prop 7. This week, the Center for Media and Democracy posted a very interesting story from Houston that made me think of our David and Goliath epic that’s happening right now in CA. As you probably figured out from the television commercials these days, the Big Utilities are using their $27.5 million on disinformation commercials to defeat Prop 7. In Houston, another big utility has gone so far as to buy a web channel and hire Tommy Lee Jones in order to keep drilling in urban neighborhoods, including grocery store parking lots, city parks, and school grounds. Check this out:

A “for-profit energy corporation is starting an online video channel as "a brand-new media source," to be staffed with people who formerly worked in conventional broadcast journalism and who will report on the very subjects the company is involved with. This unorthodox entrant into new media is Chesapeake Energy, an Oklahoma City-based natural gas producer. At the top of its website's "Health, Safety and the Environment" page, Chesapeake touts natural gas as a substitute for gasoline, diesel and coal - and one that produces significantly less greenhouse gas.”

Now, I would just like to point out to you that this is a company that doesn’t believe that green house gas emissions are the cause of climate change. But that’s OK, because

“Climate change… is not the environmental issue most associated with Chesapeake's name in North Texas these days. That issue comprises a cluster of environmental and safety concerns that citizens have been expressing in and around Fort Worth about the company's accelerated drilling activities in the area. "Fort Worth is the focus of the largest urban gas-drilling boom in the country," NPR reported. "But some people are asking for a moratorium on drilling until its full impact is understood and there are stronger laws to protect the public." Among its other responses to public complaints about its new drilling in an urban area, Chesapeake hired actor Tommy Lee Jones to help deliver its point of view in different advertising venues.”

Chesapeake Energy’s web-tv channel is – I couldn’t make this up – shale.tv. Shale TV, of course, asserts that it will simply be a new entrant on the media market, making up for the journalists who’ve been forced out by mainstream media companies. Those in Texas have a more skeptical view:

“The Morning News' Blow is one of those wary about the journalistic character of the endeavor. Indicative of the challenge observers face in determining who is and who is not a "journalist" in the new digital era, Blow wrote of the Chesapeake Energy "high-powered team of journalists. Or I guess I have to say 'former journalists.' Or 'corporate journalists.' Or something." "So, are they trying to bamboozle us? Or do they just have cash to burn?" he wrote. "When Chesapeake starts hiring credibility heavyweights like Tommy Lee Jones and Tracy Rowlett [formerly a local news anchor] to tell me everything is hunky-dory, I have to start wondering what's really going on."

Bamboozled, indeed. You see a name and face on tv you trust, such as NRDC and the CLCV, and you want to trust the integrity of what they are saying to you. But then you start to wonder…..PG&E and Sempra and Southern Cal Edison do have pretty cozy relationships with the environmentalists in this state. CLVC proudly proclaims PG&E a Champion for sponsoring CLVC events on its website. NRDC is a regular guest for the utilities, even issuing joint statements with the American Gas Association about their great work together on natural gas. Shouldn’t we instantly be skeptical that a PG&E funded ad has NRDC and the CLCV on its face, the same way that Texans are skeptical of Chesapeake’s for-hire spokespeople? Shouldn’t it alarm us that over the years they (the enviros) have taken thousands in direct and indirect donations from the Big Utilities? And shouldn’t we be concerned that the head of Edison, one of the biggest contributors to defeating Prop 7, is the founder of NRDC?

The folks in Texas get it. The face can be shiny and pretty and trustworthy and make you want to believe. But then you peel away the layers and see it’s all for the Big Utilities. Who, incidentally, want to drill in your kids’ playgrounds and will hire Tommy Lee Jones to convince you that you want that, too.


Monday, September 8, 2008

PG&E vows to yank funding to enviros who support clean energy measures

I’ve spent a great deal of time on this blog trying to illuminate the connection between Big Utilities and the actors opposing Proposition 7, including the state’s democratic and republican parties and a few big environmental groups. While I think the evidence I’ve unearthed so far is overwhelmingly suggestive of a tit-for-tat relationship, in which the enviros speak for the needs of the Big Utilities as if it were their own in exchange for financial sustenance, I re-read an old Beyond Chron article today and nearly fell off my seat when I read this:

“PG&E and its fellow electric utilities systematically subvert all legislation that would increase clean energy generation. Then they throw their hands in the air and say there is no clean energy to be had in the market, so they can’t meet their goals. Their executives even go so far as to threaten donations to the community should these initiatives pass. In June before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, PG&E’s manager of government relations, Brandon Hernandez threatened financial blowback for the community should the Clean Energy Act pass, “We no longer will be contributing to San Francisco’s non-profits and service organizations.”

If PG&E is threatening to yank funding to community (including environmental) groups over a city-wide initiative to mandate a higher threshold for electricity that comes from clean energy sources, I can only imagine the conversations PG&E, Edison, and Sempra had with the enviros and democratic party that got them to oppose Proposition 7 before it was even assigned a number. I think the $27.5 million they poured into the opposition coffers gives us an idea.

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