Dan Kammen, Clean-Energy Czar


Dan Kammen, who leads the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkeley, was just appointed by the World Bank to be its first Clean-Energy Czar.

The New York Times Green Inc. blog posted an interview with him today:

Q – One of the chief criticisms of the World Bank is that, even as it has increased funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in developing countries to $3.3 billion annually, it continues to provide significant funding for carbon-intensive projects like coal-fired power plants. Do you see a need for the bank to maintain financing for those projects?

A – This is really at the heart of the tension between traditional development — meaning more energy, more access, irrespective of environmental damage — and the emerging environmental mandate that we’ve got to cut our greenhouse gas emissions so dramatically. So you get cases like the very controversial $3.5 billion investment in coal in South Africa, and at the same time, how to build the emerging economies around solar, biofuels, wind, etc.

You can read the entire interview on the New York Times website.

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UPDATE: There is also an interview with Dan Kammen posted on Grist:

Q – The climate bill process fell apart in Congress this year and it seems like the U.N. process isn’t headed for a big treaty either. How can things actually get done?

A – There’s no simple answer to that. When we look back at the Montreal Protocol and CFCs, people thought that process looked impossible until a few companies and countries realized that cleaning circuit boards without CFCs might actually save them money and be more effective. A couple successes turned a story that looked like it was going to be a failure into one that we all look back now and say, “Oh, that was easy by comparison.”

I’m not sure exactly how many successes we need to tip the balance so that a big treaty is possible, but no group is better positioned than the World Bank to facilitate them.

You can read the entire interview at Grist.org.

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This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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The term greenwashing is generally heard when one person or organizations accuses another of greenwashing a product or practice.

Greenwashing is when a company disingenuously promotes a product as “green” or as an more environmentally-friendly option.

The Wikipedia entry on greenwashing gives the following origin story for the term:

“Greenwashing was coined by New York environmentalist Jay Westerveld in a 1986 essay reagrdign the hotel industry’s practice of placing green placards in each room, promoting the reuse of guest towels, ostensibly to ‘save the environment’. Westerveld noted that, in most cases, little or no effort toward waste recycling was being implemented by these institutions…Westerveld opined that the actual objective of this ‘green campaign’ on the part of many hoteliers was, in fact, increased profit.”

Generally, a product, practice, or promotion is labeled as “greenwashing” when it seems that there has been significant effort or resources devoted to labeling something green, and much less effort devoted to looking at the underlying metrics in terms of environmental impact and actually improving environmental performance.

As an example, yesterday I passed a sign outside the local Walgreens advocating that I “save a tree by signing up for online promotions”. Another example is that many aerosol product labels still say “CFC-free” even though CFCs have been banned since before I was born.

Several years ago, TerraChoice Environmental Marketing put out a list of “Six Sins of Greenwashing”, which has now been expanded to seven.

The seven sins of greenwashing are:

1 – Sin of the hidden trade-off

2 – Sin of no proof

3 – Sin of vagueness

4 – Sin of worshipping false labels

5 – Sin of irrelevance

6 – Sin of lesser of two evils

7 – Sin of fibbing

TerraChoice has a comprehensive (and fun!) site covering the sins. The site also includes links to recent TerraChoice reports on greenwashing.

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From my latest visit to the store (one of the MANY examples of greenwashing on the shelf):

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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.