We are cutting our carbon emissions by 5 tonnes.

On Sunday we are moving a ten minute walk (instead of a 45 minute commute) from where we both work – with two grocery stores between home and the office. And we’re switching to Good Energy.

What I like about them, despite the extra cost, is that I can be absolutely sure none of the profits from my “green tariff” will be used to build more coal, natural gas or nuclear plants. This is not the case with green tariffs from conventional suppliers. They promise you “100% green” energy, but while I was browsing suppliers yesterday, I discovered what that promise actually means. In almost every case, they buy from renewable energy sources (wholesale) the same amount of energy you pay for (retail). That’s it. And the profits are theirs to use (or pocket) as they see fit. Scottish Power pretends to offer a “100% green” tariff because they have a couple of dams up in Scotland. But dams aren’t all that green, besides which, the fuel mix for Scottish Power is 55% coal, 37% natural gas and only 6.8% “renewable” – which I assume refers to their dams – built between 1930 and 1936.

Of course those dams haven’t been sitting there for 80 years waiting for me to be willing to pay extra for “100% green” electricity. They were already in use and operating to capacity.  There’s no other way to do it with dams – if you don’t let the water out within a very particular range you will overflow or drain the reservoir.

And speaking of Scottish Power’s greed *cough* I mean green credentials, I wonder how it’s going with their subsidiary Pacificorp, in the US…

When PacifiCorp’s 50-year license to operate its six Klamath dams expired in 2002, stakeholders, along with local, state and federal agencies, assembled to participate in the processing of a new license application. The dams play a fundamental role in the decline of Klamath salmon by blocking more than 300 miles of historic spawning habitat and degrading water quality. Since the dams are poor power producers, offer no flood control and create reservoirs full of toxic blue-green algae each summer, there is strong local support for removing them.

At the same time that the Klamath dams’ license expired, PacifiCorp slammed irrigators with a sharp rate increase which for some families will result in a 1,200 percent increase in power bills. All of a sudden, farmers, fishermen, tribes and conservation groups began discussing how we could work together to have all of our needs addressed. Because our particular need is rather big – the removal of four dams, resulting in the largest river restoration project in America’s history – we are willing to work with farmers to address their needs at the same time

For its part, PacifiCorp remains defiant. The company seems more interested in gouging its own ratepayers than in making a responsible and sound business decision. That is to say that instead of working to ensure ratepayers get the cheapest out – dam removal – the utility would rather stick them with the excessive cost of bringing these outdated dams into compliance with modern environmental laws. Even installing ladders would do little to aid salmon recovery, because the degradation of water quality caused by the dams would remain. However, with at least a year left in the relicensing process, there’s still time for PacifiCorp to act responsibly and stop exploiting Native Americans, farmers and its own customers.

With Scottish Power, the “100% green” tariff appears to be nothing more than a cynical PR exercise.  All you get out of it is an opportunity to feel a bit better about your carbon emissions, while your hard earned money is siphoned off into new coal and nuclear plants, and to lengthy and expensive battles to avoid even the most basic environmental regulation.

Not so with Good Energy. They don’t deal in non-renewable energy at all. Yes, they are still shamelessly capitalizing on my consumer guilt, but the “green” they are selling is (apparently) real, not empty propaganda.

Anyway, I may not be blogging much due to packing and such, but when I return I will be in a much better moral position to shake my fist about environmental issues.