And the greenwasher of the decade is …

… no, it’s not Toyota (but don’t get me started). And no, it’s not Wal-Mart (I’ll be doing a piece on them later). No, it’s not GM, though they are trying hard, really hard. No, the winner, which has all the others over the proverbial barrel, is British Petroleum.


This was pretty clear when they invested in the tar sands last year, the “biggest global warming crime ever seen.” The Guardian provides more details, explaining that the new CEO Tony Hayward, is taking the company back to the past: “The shift to renewables has been ditched for a carbon intensive future.” They write:

BP appears to be dropping a central plank of [Lord John] Browne’s strategy, the green promise to go “beyond petroleum”, in favour of going back to petroleum – a move which many believe has riled the former boss. In what some saw as a thinly veiled criticism, Browne argued at a recent conference that some energy groups were “in denial” over the need to clean up their carbon output.

Browne understands the future for “carbon billionaires” and renewable power “majors,” even if Hayward doesn’t:

Browne has kept a low profile since he left the company, but at a recent speech to the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, he let fly, saying there was a need to “displace high-carbon options” in the choices that were made in future.

Browne said the way energy companies approached carbon in future would be a core issue for investors and it was only a matter of time before the world would see several carbon billionaires while renewable power “majors” would make it into the Fortune 500.

“Carbon is coming and it will impose costs on conventional energy sources. Energy businesses should not live in a state of denial, but work constructively with governments to ensure a smooth transition,” he said at the summit.

“The challenge is to reduce emissions against business-as-usual projections, which does not necessarily mean revolutionising existing energy infrastructure. The key is to displace high-carbon options with low-carbon options in the choices we make from now onwards about new energy capacity,” he added.

Without vision, corporations — and, far more importantly, the people — will perish.

8 Responses to And the greenwasher of the decade is …

  1. Jim Bullis says:

    Dear Dr. Romm,

    I looked around after writing the above, finding your enthusiasm for the plug-in.

    Notwithstanding the efforts to ban coal generation in California, it looks like banning coal in the US in general will be about like banning oil-sands and Chinese projects of all sorts.

    The efficiency of the heat engines in our electric power plants is not a lot better than the efficiency of the heat engines in cars. (See for a well referenced analysis of this.)

    For carbon free, or sort of, solar generated electricity, the cost is still quite out of reach for widespread implementation. I hope wind can come through, but I have yet to see enough cost information to feel safe here.

    But if you add the GM shift from oil to electric energy to the load, wow.
    See page 12 of to get a quick sense of the problem.

    I hope you don’t team up with Bob Lutz to lead us to this kind of future.

    Best regards, Jim Bullis

  2. Joe says:

    Don’t worry, Lutz won’t be hiring me anytime soon. But I can’t see why it would trouble you if he did.

    You haven’t looked much into wind, or solar thermal electric, or lots of other zero-carbon electricity sources, I guess. The future is plug-ins. You can take that to the bank.

  3. Jim Bullis says:

    Dear Dr. Romm,

    Vehicles like the Aptera, and the planned Miastrada, can then forget about the auxilliary engine-generators that we were worrying about? That is worth taking to the bank.

    Is there a reference of a study that shows how fast the zero carbon sources are going to be in position to take significant additional loads?

    I wasn’t really too worried about you and Lutz teaming up, but I did want to show you how the Lutz team is thinking. It was a surprise to me.

    Best regards, Jim Bullis

  4. Ben says:

    “The future is plug-ins. You can take that to the bank.” The future is plug-ins for the millions of people who care enough as long as it is not inconvenient. Plug-ins are still energy hogs compared to walkable communities augmented by bicycles and mass transit.

  5. Jim Bullis says:

    Is that bank insured by the FDIC?

    If you can ban coal fired electric power generation, this stuff about plug-ins becomes a significant positive benefit. Then when you also displace natural gas plants, the plug-in can be said to be carbon free.

    We need about 450,000 wind towers, yes the 80 meter kind, to get rid of the coal. Then we need about 200,000 more to get rid of the natural gas.
    The 450,000 will cost about $990 billion.

    As long as there is a running coal plant, every zap of electricity into a plug-in car will result in a shovel of coal stoked into a furnace. No, I am not trying spread bad information. This just seems to me to be the reality of how economic considerations will drive action.

    I would just shut up and get depressed, but there is another answer, not without its own set of difficulties. I describe it as distributed cogeneration, which is just the same old cogenertion, except with household based operations using small engine-generators that are in high efficiency cars.

    You might find it interesting. It could also go to the bank.

  6. Jim Bullis says:

    Even if we can believe the future is with plug-ins, I think its importatant to recognize that there is a problem with the claim that a plug-in car, “Goes the first 50 miles with zero emissions.”

    Look at Do Al Gore and Kleiner Perkins guys know that this is going on, and that their names are being used in context of that claim?

  7. Ronald says:

    990 billion to replace all the coal plants would be about 100 billion a year for 10 years. Not that much for a 14 trillion dollar economy. We’re building about 5 billion a year in wind turbines now.

    We had a surge in iraq, I’ve always thought we should have a surge in building non-carbon energy sources. Much of World War II was funded in this country by borrowing. The arguement was that future generations were going to benefit from it, at least it wouldn’t be the wrong thing for them to pay for it. The same could be said about non-carbon energy, going into debt to pay for these things makes sense since future generations will be getting some of the benefits.

  8. Cato Brutus says:

    This is a horrible crime against the environment. My website has a plan that will help you fight diabolical corporations like bp.