Seeming Green

From political photo opportunities, to governments' environmental subsidies, it seems everyone these days wants to look green. But we do not burn fossil fuels simply to annoy environmentalists; we burn them because fossil fuels facilitate virtually all the material advances that civilization has achieved over the last few hundred years.

COPENHAGEN – When Denmark’s new government ministers presented themselves to Queen Margrethe II last month, the incoming development minister established his green credentials by rolling up to the palace in a tiny, three-wheeled, electric-powered vehicle. The photo opportunity made a powerful statement about the minister’s commitment to the environment – but probably not the one he intended.

Christian Friis Bach’s electric-powered vehicle was incapable of covering the 30 kilometers from his house to the palace without running out of power. So he put the electric mini-car inside a horse trailer and dragged it behind his petrol-powered Citroën for three-quarters of the trip, switching back to the mini-car when he neared the television cameras. The stunt produced more carbon emissions than if he had ditched the electric car and horse trailer and driven a regular car the entire distance.

Unfortunately, the story is not unique. Under the United Kingdom’s Labour government in 2006, Conservative party leader David Cameron attracted attention for trying to “green” his credentials by cycling to work; the tactic went awry when it emerged that a car trailed him carrying his briefcase.

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