Chevron’s ad busters

Auntie Ruth is green to the eco scene. Read each week as she weeds through the dirt and unearths new gems of environmental knowledge.

Auntie Ruth thought all the Chevron Corporation did was contribute to global warming, but it turns out the Bay Area-based company may be doing much, much more. Chevron is accused of abetting violence in the oil-producing regions of Nigeria. The group Justice in Nigeria Now tried earlier this month to buy two billboards owned by CBS Outdoor to post advertisements drawing attention to Chevron’s human-rights abuses. But CBS refused, calling the ads “negative.” Ruthie checked out to find out more about an incident in 1998, during which Chevron is accused of transporting Nigerian soldiers in a Chevron-leased helicopter to open fire on unarmed villagers “peacefully protesting the environmental problems caused by the company in their communities,” according to a JINN press release. Earlier this year, a U.S. District Court judge found evidence that Chevron personnel were directly involved in the attack and a lawsuit against the company (Bowoto v. Chevron) will be heard in U.S. federal court in San Francisco starting next week.

Why, Ruth wonders, do both presidential candidates seem so obsessed with “clean coal,” considering we have renewable-energy sources—wind, solar, geothermal, fuel-cell technology—at our disposal or quickly being developed? “Clean coal” refers to the idea of carbon capture and storage, also known as carbon sequestration, where carbon dioxide emitted by a coal-fired power plant is taken and stored somewhere. Auntie Ruth calls “clean coal” an “idea” because it doesn’t currently exist anywhere in the world. Barack Obama wanted a zero-emissions coal power plant in Illinois, but the Department of Energy shelved the project because of enormous costs.

Surprisingly, there hasn’t been much attention devoted to another potential renewable power source: water. But that might soon change. Two years ago, Ocean Power Technologies , a company based in New Jersey, planted a small piston-driven buoy 5 miles off the coast of Long Beach Island, which generates enough energy to keep the buoy’s systems running. This little power maker could be the beginning of “wave farms” in the United States: An expert from the Electric Power Research Institute estimated ocean-based farms could one day produce up to 10 percent of our energy needs. Portugal unveiled the world’s first wave farm: a series of “wave snakes” anchored to the ocean floor that powers some 1,500 homes.