Sounding more like a screenwriter for “Captain Planet and the Planeteers” than a business magazine contributor, Fortune’s Marc Gunther scripted energy company TXU as an enemy of Earth in his February 5 article.
“Joining hands with environmentalists, the CEOs of ten FORTUNE 500 companies … called on the government to regulate the greenhouse gases caused by burning fossil fuels,” Gunther noted. The nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), has “pledged to reduce their own emissions,” he added.
But “then there is TXU,” a “$10.4-billion-a-year energy company” that “is staking its future on coal – the dirtiest of all fuels used to generate electricity.” Gunther closed his article with a dire warning that “unless Texas gets serious about global warming in a hurry, it looks as if the company will have the last word” – and further meet the country’s growing energy demands with coal-fired electrical plants.
Gunther’s aim was to paint TXU into a lonely smokestack-filled corner, and he did so by misleading readers about the political aims of green groups allied with industry groups against TXU.
“TXU is fighting not just the usual activists from the Sierra Club and Public Citizen,” the Fortune staffer informed his readers, “but environmental groups like Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council, which are ordinarily business-friendly.”
And Gunther’s evidence that these groups were business-friendly?
But a brief look at history shows anything but a business-friendly environmental lobby.
For example, although the American Petroleum Institute reports that the federal government collects about $5 billion in oil and gas royalties per year, plus a little more than $1 billion in rental payments on federal leases, the Environmental Defense Fund called for a “one percent surcharge on oil production” in the Gulf of Mexico.
And the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)?
According to its Web site, the NRDC’s complaint with coal-fired electric plants has mostly to do with carbon emissions. Yet even though NRDC sees global warming from carbon emissions as a grave threat, it continues to oppose one mostly carbon-free energy alternative, nuclear power.
But Gunther didn’t see only TXU as the bad guy. Ultimately, consumers are to blame, he insisted.
While “corporate America is getting serious about global warming,” for “the rest of America, well, that’s a different story,” he complained. “There’s no sign that consumers are willing to give up big houses and cars.”
That article didn’t dwell on how TXU was investing $10 billion to lower energy costs in Texas, which was “hit hard by the tripling of natural gas prices in recent years.” Instead, the Times went looking for the Grinch and found him with left-wing predictability at Public Citizen, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the Natural Resources Defense Council.