Thursday, January 15, 2009

BP wins coveted 'Emerald Paintbrush' award

BP - energy mix or PR fix?

The tension built as the judges deliberated. Then at last the results were were all in and - ta-da! It was time to announce the winner of the first annual Greenpeace 'Emerald Paintbrush' award for greenwashing above and beyond the call of duty. Cue a quick roll on the drums, and step forward into the spotlight - BP!

The energy corporation with an income larger than most of the world's nation states has spent a lot of time and money restyling itself as being 'Beyond Petroleum' in recent years, but a trawl through their accounts quickly reveals just how empty that assertion really is - 'Back to Petroleum', more like it.
The 2008 Greenpeace 'Emerarld paintbrush award for greenwash goes to...BP!

Strangely enough, when our dinner-jacketed and bow-tied representatives turned up at the British oil giant's London headquarters this morning to present the handsome, bright green, mounted paintbrush to group CEO Tony Hayward, they were unceremoniously ejected.

The prize was offered in recognition of the company's attempts to greenwash its brand over the course of 2008, in particular its multimillion dollar advertising campaign announcing its commitment to alternative energy sources. Slogans such as "from the earth to the sun, and everything in between” and “the best way out of the energy fix is an energy mix".

The reality, you'll be unsurprised to learn, is somewhat different. We got our hands on internal company documents (summarised in the chart above) which clearly show that this year the company allocated 93 per cent ($20bn) of its total investment fund for the development and extraction of oil, gas and other fossil fuels. In contrast, solar power (a technology which analysts say is on the brink of important technological breakthroughs) was allocated just 1.39 per cent, and wind a paltry 2.79 per cent.

The same presentation reveals that BP intended to spend just $1.5bn this year on all forms of alternative energy – including wind power, wave, solar, tidal, and biofuels and even including some "efficient" natural gas projects. This amount represents just 6.8 per cent of their total investment.

The reality is that BP is one of the world's largest single corporate emitters. In 2007 alone the company released over 63 million tonnes of CO2 into the earth's atmosphere, roughly equivalent to the emissions of Portugal. But while their adverts announce the arrival of a fresh approach, BP boss Tony Hayward continues to describe alternative energy only as "a valuable option for the future". Too little, too late Tony.

A final word from our man at the impromptu awards ceremony, James Turner:

"You wouldn't know it from their adverts, but BP bosses are pumping billions into their oil and gas business and investing peanuts in renewables. They've won the 2008 Emerald Paintbrush award because their slogans suggest that they are serious about clean energy, while their actions show they're still hell-bent on oil extraction."

Video: highlights from the BP 'Emerald Paintbrush' awards ceremony

Thursday, January 08, 2009

qUote of the DAy

Every one knows that the learned societies of Europe are mere schools of falsehood, and there are assuredly more mistaken notions in the Academy of sciences than in a whole tribe of American Indians. (..) A savage will not turn his head to watch the working of the finest machinery or all the wonders of electricity. (..) Everything matters to us, as we are dependent on everything, and our curiosity naturally increases with our needs. This is why I attribute much curiosity to the man of science and none to the savage. The latter needs no help from anybody the former requires every one, and admirers most of all.

Jean Jacques Rousseau – Emile, Book III, 1762

Thursday, January 01, 2009

looking back on 2008...

There are several things I forgot to post about, which were important in 2008. They don't make a consistent whole. But, I have to add some not-so-up-to-date memories...

When my mother and her cousin, Serap visited me in Amsterdam we had such a busy schedule that I forgot to post about our museum night (spent in Alto Jazz Bar, as there were no tickets left to musea), our visit (with Witho) to Vollendam and Hoorn as well as Scheringa Museum for Realism, in which we found a toroop, a magritte and two de chirico's (yayy!) and discovered two belgian painters: gustave van de woestyne and valerius de saedeleer.

The nicest paintings I have seen in the museum are somehow not available over the net, so what you see here is an underestimation of a small but precious exhibit.

Why did we end up in some unheard of museum like that? Good question...

I guess we were lost. Or maybe, we ended up in Hoorn for lunch, and Scheringa museum (completely out of one's usual way) was just too close by to skip.

Hoorn was a predictable Dutch town, as you
can see in the two pictures I put here... Other than that it could be summarised as, nice fish, rather labour-leaning politics and a statue of some VOC colonizers in the middle of town square.

But before that we visited Vollendam, and THAT was a different story...

This little fishing village was designed so that it would represent everything that a tourist might imagine about the Netherlands in the most steriotypical sense of the word. I thought it was ludicrous, and my guests said this was exactly what they thought all of the Netherlands was like. A fishing village.... Thank Shiva, that's not the case...

Otherwise, I think they thought Amsterdam was just too much like Istanbul. Smaller, of course, and substract the chaos and the traffic you cannot escape in Istanbul.
It was just not too surprising.... Vollendam, on the other hand, was indeed different than Istanbul. :)

I don't find it pleasant though... Why?
Well... Let's start with the coat of arms...
a grizzly BEAR lifting a board with a black COW and three STARS on it. No fish, no funny hats, no sea at all on the coat of arms. AND YET IT IS FUNNY!
Second, it was too orderly even for the Netherlands' standards!
Third, nothing particularly unique whatsoever! Maybe the smell of the sea... Yeah, that was lovely...
I don't know... I'm just not visiting Vollendam again.

On the way back, we visited the
Batavia Ship (or rather the replica), which was a ship of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). She was built in Amsterdam in 1628, and had 24 cast-iron cannons. Batavia was shipwrecked on her maiden voyage, and made famous by the subsequent mutiny and massacre that took place among the survivors. This is an incredibly interesting story reminding the lord of the flies. Wiki has a good long plot line here. And here is an image plate from Ongeluckige voyagie van 't schip Batavia (The Unlucky Voyage of the Vessel Batavia) from 1647.
The twentieth century replica of the ship is also called the Batavia. The replica was built at the Bataviawerf (Batavia Wharf) in Lelystad, with traditional materials, such as oak and hemp, and using the tools and methods of the time of the original ship's construction. The project lasted from 1985 to 1995, and was conducted as an employment project for young people. For the design, good use was made of the remains of the original ship, as well as historical sources, such as 17th century building descriptions (actual building plans weren't made at the time), and prints and paintings by artists (who, at the time, generally painted fairly true to nature), of similar ships. A week before we were there, on October 13th, a fire ripped through the Batavia-werf destroying the sailmaking shed, several office buildings and the sails of replica ship Batavia, but the ship itself was not damaged.