Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, Monsieur Mestrallet

December has arrived so I am gearing up for Christmas.

I'm what Richard Dawkins would call a cultural Christian, as opposed to a Christian of the religious variety, which means (among other things) that I celebrate Christmas. I do so with such gusto that I start listening to Christmas carols several weeks before Thanksgiving, even though the other members of the household consider this borderline felonious.

I mention this because I'm about to ask you for a Christmas present. Do not be alarmed. All it will cost is fifteen minutes of your time, the price of one sheet of paper, an envelope, and an air-mail stamp. I am asking you to write a letter to Gerard Mestrallet, CEO of GDF Suez, the company that owns the coal-burning Mount Tom power station, asking him to convert Mount Tom from coal to solar.

Last March about 40 climate activists gathered at Mount Tom and made the same request, but so far we haven't heard back. Now that the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research has published a report predicting that by the end of this century ocean levels will have risen enough to threaten some of the world's biggest cities, the time seems right for us to send a reminder.

Regular readers of Mass Greens may recall that GDF Suez is one of the biggest energy companies on the planet. In fact, according to the corporate website, GDF Suez is the "No. 1 independent power producer in the world." Another claim the company's website makes is this:
By helping to prevent climate warming, preserving fossil fuels and natural resources, and promoting environmentally friendly energy, GDF Suez is working to control the impact of its own activities and those of its customers on the environment.
Here's one more quote, this time on the subject of solar power:
[GDF Suez will] take all measures to increase the share of this
clean, renewable energy in its energy mix, by being active across the value chain: from research to the construction and set up of facilities.
Hmm. Last March we gather at Mount Tom to demand that GDF Suez stop burning coal, and suddenly (eight months later) the company starts touting its commitment to climate-change solutions. Coincidence? Well, yes!

But while we can't claim credit for changing the hearts and minds of the energy giant's leaders, we can seize the opportunity to hold them to their "we're-ever-so-green" propaganda. Earlier today I wrote a short letter to Gerard Mestrallet asking him to transform Mount Tom from a coal-burning plant to a solar facility. I cited the claims on his company's website and compared them with his company's actions here in Western Massachusetts where it pumps over a million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. I told that him that the company's work on photovoltaics in Belgium is something to be proud of, but that exacerbating global warming via Mount Tom is not.

I am under no illusions that he will take my advice. But nor do I imagine that the people who run energy companies will get serious about climate-change solutions without us (the active citizens) pushing them.

If we had a Green governor in Massachusetts, or a Green speaker of the house, it wouldn't be left to active citizens alone to do the pushing. Monsieur Mestrallet and his colleagues would be receiving correspondence on State House letterhead and getting the message that if GDF Suez wants to do business in Massachusetts it had better switch from coal to renewables a.s.a.p.

But we don't have any Greens in the State House (yet) so the job falls to Greens -- and small-G greens -- outside the State House to send the message. Lyndon B. Johnson once said that being president involves telling people to do what they should be doing without the president having to tell them to do it. I think the same applies to active citizenship.

So let's tell Gerard Mestrallet to do what he should be doing. By way of an early Christmas present to yours truly, please send your letters to:

Monsieur Gerard Mestrallet
GDF Suez
22 rue du docteur Lancereaux
Paris 75392

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