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Environmental group accuses PG&E
of Greenwashing Latino community

Energy producer PG&E has augmented their 'Let's Green This City' campaign by targeting San Francisco's Latino community. An environmental group accuses the company
of 'Greenwashing.'
Photos By John Han

By John Han

August 23, 2007

Despite PG&E's widely marketed campaign known as "Let's Green This City" launched earlier this year, members of a grassroots environmental group, Green Guerillas Against Greenwash (GGAG), say the company is "greenwashing" San Francisco.

'Greenwashing' is a term used to describe the actions of a company, government, or other organization that advertises positive environmental practices while acting in the opposite way.

PG&E's campaign, as described by the company, is "an outreach initiative aimed at doing business while maintaining a healthy, sustainable relationship with our environment."

Members of GGAG, however, point to PG&E's combined energy production portfolio that includes 65 percent of PG&E's energy being derived from burning carbon dioxide-producing fossil fuels and from nuclear power. Only 2 percent of PG&E's energy production portfolio comes from renewable energy sources, according to the LetsGreenwashThisCity.org website.

"PG&E is a nuclear and gas-powered company that has no intention of moving towards renewable energy policies," Aliza Wasserman of GGAG told Fog City outside a Mission District restaurant where PG&E staged their 'Verde' marketing campaign targeting the Latino community yesterday.

"The City of San Francisco is considering a really radical and important policy called Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) that would break the contract with PG&E and move to 51 percent renewable energy by 2017," Wasserman stated.

"It's a $17 million PR campaign. They're using all this money to target the Latino community to try to get the message out that they're environmentally friendly.

"I think they're trying to get community leaders to channel their attention to Climate Smart," Wasserman projected.

PG&E's Climate Smart program is a carbon-offset program introduced by the company in June. The voluntary program charges customers to have their carbon emissions footprint calculated. The revenue generated from the program is used to pay for clean air programs such as tree planting initiatives that PG&E says would offset carbon dioxide-generating emissions.

GGAG, however, is critical of the program saying customers should not have to pay into a program "so that PG&E can cover its tracks."

GGAG says the way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is to increase clean renewable energy production while reducing dependence on non-renewable carbon dioxide-producing energy sources.

PG&E environmental communications representative Melissa Mooney defended the Climate Smart program.

"Those projects are certified by the California Climate Action Registry," Mooney told Fog City. She said the average residential customer would pay an additional $5.00 per month on their bill for Climate Smart.

Mooney estimates as many as two thousand PG&E residential and commercial customers have signed up for Climate Smart since the program's launch. There are approximately 15 million customers in PG&E's total service territory.

"We're expecting the enrollments to increase exponentially," Mooney said.

PG&E spokeswoman Darlene Chiu said PG&E has the cleanest portfolio in the nation and is aggressively pursuing renewable energy from solar, wind, and hydroelectric sources. According to Chiu, PG&E derives 13 percent of its energy portfolio from renewable sources.

"We are doing what we can and looking at every opportunity to increase our renewable energy portfolio," Chiu told Fog City. She said PG&E's solar farm is the largest in the country.

PG&E announced in July it would purchase 553 megawatts of solar power per year from a solar park in the Mohave Desert. The initiative is expected to bring PG&E's portfolio into compliance with the State of California's mandate of 20 percent renewable energy standard by the year 2010.

Wasserman accused PG&E of only striving to meet the bare minimum requirements noting that PG&E's claimed renewable energy portfolio is still less than half of what Community Choice Aggregation legislation is targeting.

Luke Thomas contributed to this report.




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