I recently received a press release from the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) announcing a “major new solution to cut existing coal-fired emissions by 26 percent.” Ever since reading David Ogilvy’s highly entertaining Confessions of an Advertising Man—which tells readers that putting big dramatic words like “major” and “new” into advertising headlines is almost always effective—I have learned to know an advertising pitch when I see it. The NRDC headline is most definitely an advertising pitch. And it is an advertisement for natural gas, which is a carbon heavy fossil fuel.
Why is the NRDC, which calls itself an environmental group, selling fossil fuel? Because it is lucrative. NRDC is, as becomes obvious when you look at its website, a revenue-generating organization. And natural gas companies are rich: look at the television ads that have saturated the North American airwaves over the past few years. Those ads cost money. The ads are a glaring indicator of the sheer magnitude of the dollars the Oil and Gas lobby is spending to create a favourable public opinion climate. NRDC cannot have failed to notice this.
Why do I say the NRDC is peddling natural gas? Read the following excerpt from the press release:
[P]ower plant owners and states [could] reduce emissions through cost-effective means that could be accomplished by:
- Reducing an individual plant’s carbon emissions by improving combustion efficiency, burning cleaner fuels or installing carbon capture and storage.
- Shifting generation from high-emitting to lower- or zero-emitting plants. Lower emitting sources such as gas, wind and solar would earn credits that other plants could use, to reduce average emissions rates.
It is amazing that a self-styled green group would consider natural gas—which dumps half a kilogram of carbon dioxide into the air for every kilowatt-hour it generates—to be a solution to carbon emissions. After all, for gas to replace coal in the U.S. would mean that instead of two billion metric tons of CO2 being dumped into the air from power plants every year, only one billion tons would get dumped. Yes it is a billion-ton reduction. But I’m worried about the billion tons that ARE going into the air. How is that an improvement?
Nuclear generators dump zero kilograms of carbon dioxide. Why wouldn’t NRDC push for new nuclear plants?
I suspect it is because Oil and Gas are so damn rich compared with the nuclear industry. NRDC needs money. Oil and Gas lobbies have demonstrated, with endless expensive television and print ads, year after year, that they are willing to spend lots of money. NRDC has an ill-deserved reputation as a “green” group. That’s just the kind of ally Oil and Gas could use in lobbying the congress to ease up on any prospective climate legislation that might hurt their bottom line.
In the end, it matters not to NRDC what becomes of the billion tons of CO2 that their preferred fuel will dump every year. Much of it will eventually wind up in the world’s oceans, turning them more acidic (you can read up on ocean acidification here on NRDC’s website).
What matters is the lucre that pours in from their Oil and Gas clients.
What a bunch of sellouts. With “defenders” like the NRDC, the natural environment doesn’t need any more offenders.