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Exxon is Green, CFL's are Probably More Efficient, and Other Ridiculous News Items

[Editor's note: this blog post originally appeared on The Huffington Post, and is reprinted here with the author's permission.]

Excuse a brief rant about what seems to be a rise in ridiculous cover stories and op-eds. Apparently, the only way to get printed these days is to say something that makes "counterintuitive" seem quaint. No, you have to go all the way to crazy-town.

This kind of nonsense is happening on all topics (do I even have to mention "death panels"?), but in my wheelhouse, I've seen some doozies in the green world. A couple cases in point lately:

1) Forbes Magazine declares Exxon the Green Company of the Year. The basic argument of this piece is that Exxon is the world's best producer of natural gas, which is lower carbon than coal. That alone apparently makes the company "green."

2) An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today declares that switching to compact fluorescents is not worth it because of "bad lighting." The core absurdity: "Will some energy be saved? Probably. The problem is this benefit will be more than offset by rampant dissatisfaction with lighting." Really? Cutting energy use and expense 75 percent for each bulb changed probably saves energy? And it will be outweighed by lighting concerns?

What makes these kinds of arguments so dangerous is that chunks of the discussion are logical and well-thought out. Those are the flowers growing out of a turd of argument. But gullible people will latch onto the most ridiculous claims and just remember those.{related_content}

Is natural gas cleaner than coal? Of course. Does that make Exxon green given its role as the prime funder of climate change deniers over the last decade? Hardly. The company has done more than any single entity (save perhaps Fox Networks) to undermine the vast consensus of scientists on the challenges of climate change. I believe those payments to junk "scientists" to make it seem like there's disagreement as to the extent of the problem will go down as one of the more immoral acts in corporate history. Can Exxon become green? Sure. God knows it's one of the most efficient, effective companies in the world. If it turned those operational powers to greener energy pursuits, it could lead. Look what happened to Walmart and GE under new CEOs Lee Scott and Jeff Immelt.

And do CFLs create some challenges in lighting style? Sure. But those are being addressed quickly by companies selling better and better options (e.g., you don't have to buy the white-light curly-cue bulbs anymore -- they come in frosted bulb covers that make the light very close to "normal"). The op-ed also decries the inability of CFLs to handle dimming well. But LED lighting, which is infinitely dimmable, is coming on strong and fast.

Anyway, to say that the vast decreases in energy use and expense -- which the author seems to skip over entirely in his railing against an "energy-saving agenda" -- are outweighed by some possible, and avoidable, inconvenience in finding the right light for the situation, is totally absurd.

I hesitate to give these arguments more ink, since that's why our media prints silly articles. But I'd rather scream from the rafters about the silliness then let it slide by.

Andrew Winston helps companies use environmental thinking to grow and prosper. He is the author of the recently released Green Recovery, which makes the case that now is the best time to go green. He is also the co-author of the best-seller Green to Gold.

Photo CC-Licensed by Flickr user Anderson Mancini.

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