Greenwashing in the City of Portland

By Ethan Whiteford

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In 2001, the city of Portland, Oregon decided that by 2010, all electricity used would be from renewable sources. When 2010 came along, it was found only 9% of electricity was from renewable sources. Undeterred, in 2012 Portland leaders again declared that city agencies would achieve 100 percent renewable energy. This time they managed 14% renewable energy. Today, Portland has magically declared victory, claiming that municipal electricity use is 100% renewable. However, this is a blatant case of Greenwashing. Portland is currently generating only 9 percent of its electricity from city-owned bio-gas and solar facilities. Another 15 percent is claimed from “green power” sold by Portland General Electric. The remaining 76 percent of city use comes from a conventional mix of coal, gas, nuclear, and hydro. Portland then pretends to offset this by purchasing so-called “Renewable Energy Certificates” (RECs) which do nothing but “represent the environmental amenities.”

Portland is guilty of committing several of the “Seven Deadly Sins of Greenwashing.” They would be the Sin of Hidden Trade-Off and the Sin of Fibbing. Portland fibbed about its energy being 100% green, when only 9% of it can actually be traced back to being green. They also did not mention that the RECs are literally nothing. You can’t do anything with them because they don’t exist.


One thought on “Greenwashing in the City of Portland

  1. That is sucky of Portland to lie about their energy, instead of being transparent and trying to do better. This reminds me of some of the Portlandia spoofs about the environmental escapades of Portland.

    This is not necessarily the city itself, but there are many more environmental themes in this show than any other shows I have seen!


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