Thursday, December 28, 2006

2006 Green Thumbs Down Awards

With only a few days remaining in the year that was 2006, it's time once again to present my Annual Green Thumbs Down Awards for ecological ignorance and political arrogance.

The "Oh Say Can't You See?" Award goes to Mr. George Double-Ya Bush for his assertion that the existence of global climate change is based on belief, not facts. Hate to break it to you, Mr. B, but this isn't a question of belief. But if proof is really what you're looking for, why don't you talk to the good folks in New Orleans who are still trying to rebuild a city almost wiped off the map by a hurricane of unprecedented strength? Maybe the residents of the Greater Vancouver area might be available for a chat once they've cleaned up the mess from three - count 'em - catastrophic storms in a row. Or perhaps some of the millions of environmental refugees in the developing world who have already been driven from their homes by flooding, landslides and other so-called natural disasters might want to stop by and chat. After all, they have nowhere else to go.

North of the 49th parallel, Canada's Environment Minister, Rona Ambrose, takes home the "Are you sure you're not a blonde?" Award for apparently caring more about her hairstyle than the fate of the planet. At the recent Global Climate Change talks in Kenya, Ms. Ambrose tossed her hair and called the press "mean" for dumping on the Harper government's track record on greenhouse gas emissions. (Come on, Rona; let's see those roots!)

In a related category, the "June in January" Award goes to Ms. Rona's boss, Stephen Harper, for his Clean Air Act that will start reducing Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It will be interesting to see how the then 91 year-old Harper will see this legislation to fruition. Got a problem with commitment, Mr. Harper?

The "Money for Nothing" Award goes to the top executives at Ontario Hydro's successor companies, Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One, who have brought the idea of sucking deeply from the public trough to new and exciting depths. After serious questions were raised about Tom Parkinson's $1.6 million salary and expense account irregularities, the CEO of Hydro One did the dishonorable thing and walked away from the job with a $3 million severance package. Is this what they mean by debt retirement charge?

Meanwhile, back at Ontario Power Generation, CEO Jim Harkinson is still raking in an annual salary and bonuses that exceed $1.5 million. A sum that is reportedly almost four times the salary paid to CEOs at Hydro Quebec and BC Hydro.

The "Closing the Gate After the Horses are Gone" Award is presented to the Ontario Government, who in light of the above are considering capping the salaries of public employees.

The Ontario Government is also at the podium for receiving the "There's One Born Every Minute" Award for actually believing that nuclear power is a safe, cost-effective way to produce electricity. Earlier this year, Energy Minister Dwight Duncan announced that the province would invest over $40 billion to build two new nuclear reactors and refurbish six existing reactors. This after decades of inefficiency and cost overruns at Ontario's nuclear power plants sent Ontario Hydro's debt soaring to $38.5 billion. With assets of only $22.5 billion, Hydro's debt forced the province to dismantle the behemoth utility into smaller, supposedly more cost effective and fiscally responsible companies. As Dr. Phil says, "How's that working for you, Ontario?" (See debt retirement charge above.)

The world's largest car manufacturer, General Motors, is this year's recipient of the "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth is" Award. With its investment in FlexFuel vehicles - cars and trucks that can run on a blended ethanol fuel - the auto giant is trying to paint itself as a green company. Meanwhile, back in the boardroom, company executives have announced a $740 million investment to rebirth the Camaro. The latest version of this gas-guzzling classic will feature a 400 horsepower, 6.0-liter engine. Since the Camaro isn't designed to meet everyone's driving needs, GM is currently aggressively marketing the H2, the somewhat smaller and more user-friendly cousin of the monster H1 Hummer, as an alternative to the family van. Green? Only if you're talking about the colour of money.

All in all, it was a stellar year for extraordinary corporate myopia and self-serving political arrogance. And here I thought we're supposed to get smarter as we get older!


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