Apple’s “100% renewable” lie

A few years ago tech giant Apple announced that it was using 100% renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind for many of its power needs, including its data centers, and that 87% of its global operations were run on “renewables.”

Now Apple says it that it is “globally powered by 100 percent renewable energy.”

As part of its commitment to combat climate change and create a healthier environment, Apple today announced its global facilities are powered with 100 percent clean energy. This achievement includes retail stores, offices, data centers and co-located facilities in 43 countries—including the United States, the United Kingdom, China and India.

It’s not true. As I explained in a 2016 Forbes column, Apple is cooking its energy books to sell us on the lie that it runs on solar and wind.

Apple, like nearly every other international technology company in the world, gets the overwhelming percentage of its power from cheap, plentiful, reliable coal and almost none from expensive, unreliable solar and wind.

Like any other large tech company, Apple requires a lot of energy for its operations–and this energy needs to be cheap and reliable. But today’s politically correct sources of energy, above all solar and wind, are neither reliable nor affordable. To call them “renewables” is a misnomer, because “renewables” advocates generally refuse to support the only cost-effective “renewable” option, large-scale hydroelectric power: building a dam, they say, is not sufficiently “green.” Solar and wind should be called “unreliables” because the intermittent nature of sunlight and wind have made them useless as scalable, reliable sources of energy that can meaningfully substitute for hydro, nuclear, let alone fossil fuel power. These unreliables require subsidies and government mandates to exist.

So how can Apple claim to be between 87-100% renewable yet actually be a coal-powered company?

By committing two types of energy accounting sleight-of-hand:

  1. Paying off other companies and consumers to give Apple “green credits” for its coal electricity usage.
  2. Concealing that the vast majority of computer energy use comes from coal-powered manufacturing and the coal-powered Internet.

You can read the whole thing here.

Unfortunately, Apple isn’t the only company dishonestly portraying itself as “100% renewable.” Everyone from Intel to LEGO to Whole Foods to Google is trying to ride the green bandwagon by lying about their energy usage. (One news story describing Apple’s recent announcement had to append this note: “Clarified that Apple, like Google, is not actually 100 percent powered by clean energy, but it uses the term to signal that it buys enough green energy to offset its global power consumption.”)

It is bad enough that these companies are making false claims to build up their image, but they are using their unearned status to promote policies that would deprive others—especially poorer Americans who can’t afford to live in San Francisco mansions—of energy. That is shameful.

Tim Cook and the other “100% renewable” CEOs owe the public—including members of the fossil fuel industry—an apology. They should tell the truth about their energy usage, and thank the men and women who provide the reliable energy that allows them to flourish.

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Thank you for presenting in Ferndale, WA on March 29th at the Silver Reef. I enjoyed your balanced view of the role of energy and how to frame the conversation in a positive way. Unfortunately, the discussion is biased, sloppy, and anti-human just as you described. Framing the issue with the goal of human flourishing versus unchanged nature is the way to have a productive conversation.

Thanks for your perspective, it’s refreshing. -Jason J.

1. Change a mind by sharing my Google talk. Do you have someone you know who needs to learn pro-human thinking about energy issues? A great place to start is by sharing my talk at Google, which is designed to persuade even those immersed in the biased, sloppy, and anti-human energy thinking in our culture. Click the button below and I’ll send you the link to the talk.

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3. Bring me to speak at your next event. If you have an upcoming board meeting, employee town hall, or association meeting, I have some new and updated speeches about the moral case for fossil fuels, winning hearts and minds, and communications strategy in the new political climate. If you’d like to consider me for your event, click the button below and I’ll send you the info.

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2 replies
  1. Respect Silence
    Respect Silence says:

    Appending to my previous comment, I didn’t realize this site was blatantly pro fossil fuels, which is the other side of the ignorance coin vs. those who think “renewables” will solve all our problems.

    Wiser people realize the world and all its resources are FINITE, as a logical starting point. Any worldview based on a deity (aka magic) cannot be trusted to take evidence impartially. Those who see resources as limitless are invariably religious.

    Reply
    • Dr. Rich Swier
      Dr. Rich Swier says:

      Respect Silence,

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      We are pro-human flourishing. Mankind flourishes when there is cheap, reliable and plentiful power available. We are conservationists. We believe that mankind has the knowledge and technologies to be good stewards of the earth and all of its creatures. We believe that if we focus on mankind, then we can lift up everyone on this small planet.

      We support policies that give mankind the freedom to make their own decisions. We also believe in the rule-of-law. We believe in science not as an end to further one political position or another. But rather science that seeks the truth.

      Reply

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