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San Francisco | Environment & Forest Defense | Fault Lines

Sat Apr 7 2007 Green Is...Not PG&E: Behind the Green Ink of This Nor Cal Utilities Company
Walking around San Francisco, you might have noticed bright green ads featuring cutesy witticisms about what “green is,” sponsored by the local utility monopoly PG&E. My favorite ad prominently displays a piece of cow dung with the quote “Green isn’t always pretty.” Here, PG&E isn’t too far off; for them, green is… a lie.

Although recently heralded by environmental advocates for their support of the state-wide clean energy bill, PG&E itself will admit that this bill does little to disrupt their energy buying habits, which rely heavily on natural gas, big hydro, and nuclear power. Together, these three sources account for 84 percent of PG&E's energy consumption and each carries with it a large environmental toll. But taking credit where none is due is par for the course in this energy giant's game.

PG&E praises itself for interconnecting more than 12,000 solar customers, more than any other utility in the country, but here they are taking credit for individuals who install solar panels. To make this self-congratulatory statement even more aggravating, PG&E actually lobbied against incentives for individuals to install solar panels.

Another great example of this company's duplicity is the "ClimateSmart" program. This program gives customers the option to offset their CO2 emissions by paying PG&E to plant trees. Besides the fact that planting trees is a highly consumptive and disputed band-aid "solution" to global warming, PG&E's stated goal for the program is a mere 4 to 5 percent of their customers. Meanwhile, they are spending 17 million dollars to promote "ClimateSmart," a fee that will be passed onto customers whether they like it or not.

So what's behind all of this green ink?

PG&E is certainly spending a lot of money to promote a green image, and what's behind it is anyone's guess. Some venture that they are trying to make up for dragging their feet in closing down the Bayview Hunters Point power plant, which polluted San Francisco for 77 years and was linked to abnormally high rates of cancer and juvenile asthma. However, recent actions by the company suggest that this PR campaign is part of a larger offensive against public power and other green legislation in San Francisco.

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