Last week the esteemed Goldman Prizes for environmental stewardship were awarded in San Francisco. One of the winners at this ceremony, which has been called the Oscars of the environmental movement, went to Jonathan Deal, a brave South African man who stood up to the corporate might of Shell Oil to protect one of the most environmentally sensitive regions in the world.
Few in the audience sensed the irony that Deal and his wife had travelled to receive this award in a city that is about to force local residents to buy dirty power from Shell Oil.
As hard as it is to believe, "green" San Francisco is about to sign a contract with Shell Oil to provide electric power.
Yes -- that Shell Oil, the very same corporation trying to "frack" in environmentally sensitive parts of South Africa.
That Shell Oil -- the corporation that Greenpeace UK called one of "the dirtiest, most regressive corporations in the world" because of their corporate policies of pushing highly polluting biomass and biofuels.
Yes, the very same Shell Oil suing environmentalists to speed their flawed plan to drill in the Arctic Ocean.
That Shell Oil.
San Francisco likes to think of itself as green. But there is nothing green about the power Shell will provide. Almost all of it comes from out of state, and much of it likely will come from burning biomass, which in some cases is dirtier than burning coal. The contract with Shell states clearly that no new renewables need to be built and those with even a basic understanding of how the power grid works will see that the energy mix provided by Shell will increase Green House Gas emissions.
Why would San Francisco force residents to buy dirty power from Shell Oil?
Unfortunately, there might not be a good answer.
The basic idea of communities controlling more of their own power mix in order to lower costs, increase renewables and protect the environment is sound.
Maybe rhetoric matters more than reality to the politicians pushing this deal. Perhaps they have simply not read the contract with Shell. Perhaps some don't understand just how damaging it is for the City of San Francisco to validate Shell and their polluting practices -- although the fact that San Francisco is attempting to divest Shell stock from the city pension plan suggests otherwise.
Whatever the reasons, it's time for the San Francisco politicians pushing this contract with Shell Oil to come to their senses.
Do you want to say S'hell No to buying dirty power? Take a look some of the ways you can make your voice heard here.