Apple, Google, and Greenwashing
I love Apple products. I have and use an extravagant number of Apple devices. I own Apple stock. Apple is a great company. But, Apple has a dark, pandering side. Like many companies, Apple swears allegiance to green dogma. The allegiance is mostly lip service, along with a few well-publicized green projects, such as their solar power installation in North Carolina that supplements coal power to run an Apple server farm.
According to the Guardian, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, said that the climate change issue “resonates with Apple’s workers and customers” and that is why the company has moved from environmental laggard to green leader. In other words, Apple is pandering to its employees and customers. Corporations do that, but they don’t usually claim that the future of the Earth is at stake. The Guardian reports that Cook went on to say that “he doesn't believe there’s a tradeoff between the economy and the environment.” Cook, like many green promoters, seems to believe that the laws of economics don’t apply to environmental issues.
You only have to look at the Apple board of directors to understand that Cook has to toe the green line. The world’s most important promoter of global warming, Al Gore, is on the Apple board. Cook would be suicidally foolish to say anything critical of global warming dogma and thereby enrage the clever politician sitting on his board. Anything Cook says about global warming has to be considered a statement uttered under duress. CEO’s of big companies don’t have opinions about matters outside of business. They have public relations.
The idea that Apple is a big promoter of clean energy, or that Apple is working to reduce emissions of CO2 is a comical. Most of Apple’s manufacturing is done in China. China is the world’s premier emitter of CO2 and its emissions are growing rapidly. That is a consequence of a fast growing economy that runs on coal. Coal is the most CO2-intensive fuel.
As an Apple stockholder I wouldn’t suggest that Tim Cook should challenge the Obama administration on global warming or enrage Al Gore. That wouldn’t be good for business. But Apple could stay out of the way of the global warming fanatics without actually joining the team of fanatics.
Global warming, a.k.a. climate change, is in scientific collapse. Warming of the Earth stopped 17 years ago, sea ice is expanding, the oceans are not experiencing unusual sea level increases, hurricanes and extreme weather are not becoming worse. In other words, everything that could go wrong for the promoters of global warming is going wrong.
But there are huge industries, political reputations, and academic empires built on the supposed future climate disaster. The beneficiaries of government climate money can’t afford to get off the merry-go-round. Scientific facts don’t matter to people who have staked their futures on global warming. They only care that the money doesn’t stop. The global-warming lobby is driven by professors, government researchers, green power companies, and environmental groups. The lobby will say and do whatever it takes to keep the gravy train going. Politicians don’t worry much about science; they worry about votes. The major environmental organizations collectively have millions of members and constitute a potent political force. There are millions of people who are guided by environmentalist advice because they still believe that environmental organizations are a force for good rather than part of a self-serving lobby.
Google is another fashionable company that is riding the green wave. Google tries hard to present a positive image and has done remarkably well in image polishing considering that its business is, at least partly, based on reading other people’s mail. The many small companies and consultants that are part of Google’s ecosystem have a different image of Google. They see Google as a sort of high tech reincarnation of the Kremlin and they are very careful not to get on Google’s wrong side.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Google chairman Eric Schmidt is cutting ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a network of conservative state legislators that opposes subsidies for green energy. Schmidt was quoted as saying: “Everyone understands climate change is occurring, and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place.”
Even if one buys into global warming theory, it is clear that CO2 reduction in the U.S. is a minor issue given the massive increase in Asian CO2 emissions. Anyway, U.S. emissions are declining as a result of increased use of cheap natural gas. Natural gas emits less CO2 than coal that it often displaces. Natural gas is cheap because of the fracking that environmentalists want to outlaw. Why would global warming promoters be against something that lowers CO2 emissions? Because cheap natural gas doesn’t displace only coal, it also displaces windmills and solar electricity, sources of revenue for the environmental lobby.
Google has made numerous investments in green energy, such as $168 million invested in the government-subsidized Ivanpah solar power plant. However these investments are not exactly altruistic investments in the future of mankind. According to Google’s own green energy boss, google expects to make between a 10% and 14% return on its green investments. Those returns would not exist if the government subsidies for green energy were cut off.
Google provides a useful service. We can understand that Google doesn’t want to get on the wrong side of the Obama administration when they are drinking from the government tap. But do they have to come off like Silicon Valley rubes, preaching the junk science of global warming?
According to the angrier sort of global warming believer, oil companies are behind global warming skepticism. Global warming skeptics are depicted as hired hands of the oil companies who sow confusion and lies as part of an oil industry plot to discredit global warming. If this is true, then the deviousness of the oil companies knows no bounds because the oil companies mostly claim to be big supporters of global warming and green energy. For example, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden warns about the threat of climate change and touts Shell’s program to reduce CO2 emissions. ExxonMobil “encourages sound policy solutions for addressing he risks of climate change.” Exxon is also a big contributor to the American Geophysical Union, a scientific society that vigorously promotes global warming alarmism.
Big companies, whether from Silicon Valley or Houston, are run by insecure men that are afraid to make waves and who are anxious to cozy up to politicians or any group that might make trouble for them. Swashbuckling, opinionated CEO’s are rare.
Establishment science is largely funded by the federal government. Increasingly science scare stories, like global warming, have become a technique for increasing funding. An unholy alliance between environmental non-profits, like the Sierra Club or the World Wildlife Foundation, and science establishments amount to financial partnerships. The scientists supply alarming reports and the environmental groups amplify and exaggerate the alarm. One hand washes the other. Big business gets in on the party by manufacturing wind turbines or solar power plants. The taxpayer is scammed by all these groups pretending to save the Earth. The tragedy is that it is becoming difficult to distinguish real science from junk science.
Norman Rogers is a retired entrepreneur who writes about global warming and renewable energy. He is a volunteer Senior Policy Advisor with the Heartland Institute, a Chicago think tank. He maintains a website.