Politics & Policy

MSNBGreen

You do know that the parent company of NBC is General Electric, right?

“We have turned out the lights in the studio,” NBC’s Bob Costas told viewers of Sunday’s Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles game, “to kick off a week that will include more than 150 hours of programming designed to raise awareness about environmental issues.” Discerning viewers with eyes keen enough to pierce the sanctimonious glare of Costas’s candlelit silhouette may have noticed that the stadium’s klieg lights still shone brightly.

On a typical game day, a large football stadium burns about 65,000 kilowatt hours of electricity and 35,000 cubic feet of natural gas. The cars driving to the game spew about 200 metric tons of CO2 (and that assumes nobody’s driving SUVs or RVs, which is like assuming tailgaters are eating only sushi). There’s also the electricity used to broadcast the game and to watch it. But thank goodness Costas turned off the studio lights for a minute or two.

NBC’s “Green Week” continued apace (well after this writing). Morbidly obese contestants on The Biggest Loser lugged piles of recyclable cans up ramps and into enormous collection bins. Of course, the cans were delivered to the stunt by diesel truck. So a lot of energy — and sweat! — that could have been used toward fermenting homebrew tofu, or whatever energy is supposed to be used for, was wasted on viewer schadenfreude. The winners of the challenge each received a hybrid SUV. Alas, one of the winners didn’t own a car to begin with, so the net result was one more car on the road and a little more CO2 in the air.

On Days of Our Lives, a fictional couple had a fictionally “green” wedding.

The cast of The Today Show burned massive amounts of jet fuel sending its hosts to the corners of the globe, leaving a “carbon footprint” larger than those left near the recycle bin on The Biggest Loser.

I could go on, but you’ve seen the tyranny of Green even if you’ve never turned on NBC. Green is everywhere. Every magazine feels compelled to sell some sliced tree-meat in a special “green issue,” but they feel so guilty about it, they ditch their glossy paper for pulp that gives it the feel of a hemp-commune newsletter that doubles as sustainable toilet paper. Food magazines have replaced “delicious” with “sustainable” as the highest praise. “Green is the new black” according to fashion writers who at least think certain cliches never go out of style.

Now, the predictable response to my caterwauling is that I just don’t get it. Of course, Bob Costas’s Dickensian studio lighting is just so much symbolism. But, they respond, NBC is “raising consciousness” and promoting “awareness.” We’ve heard this tone before, perhaps starting in high school, when we were told, “If we all work together, we can make this the best yearbook ever!”

And that’s why, on top of all the other reasons, Green Week — and the Green Millennium it hopes to usher in — is so annoying. It plays us all for suckers. First of all, you have enormously rich people at fantastically wealthy corporations seeking grace on the cheap with a few symbolic gestures that come at absolutely no cost, and often considerable profit.

You do know that the parent company of NBC is General Electric, right? You do know that for GE, green is first and foremost the color of money, right? As Tim Carney explains in vivid detail in his wonderful book, The Big Ripoff, GE’s “ecomagination” campaign is simultaneously a way to brand itself as a “progressive” company and a means of shaking the money tree — the most sustainable planting of them all — growing in Congress’ backyard.

When the global company launched the ecomagination campaign, guess where it held the launch party? Its D.C. lobbying office, of course.

While sipping from wine made at a solar-powered winery, the head of GE, Jeffrey Immelt, proclaimed, “Industry cannot solve the problems of the world alone. We need to work in concert with government.” Translation: The King Kong of the corporate world needs tax breaks, subsidies and favorable regulations in order to make green technology profitable. Indeed, GE has nearly cornered the market on the solar panels necessary to implement Kyoto-style reforms. Global warming hysteria is good for its bottom line.

Liberals and environmentalists love to whine about special breaks for corporations, and they work themselves into paroxysms of paranoia about how big corporations propagandize against action on climate change. The reality is exactly the opposite. GE, DuPont, British Petroleum, and countless other big corporations routinely propagandize in the other direction, largely to win governmental support they don’t need. But so long as environmentalists approve of the message, they’ve got no problem whatsoever with the messengers.

For GE and Bob Costas alike, Kermit the Frog was a liar; it is easy being green.

© 2007 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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