Five Greatest US Green Scams Of All Time
Abandoned,open drums. Image credit:State of Massachusetts
The original green scam, prominent in the US during the late 1970's and early 80's, was called 'short hauling.' Being a simple scam, mafia involvement was optional (though that changed once the potential for serious profits became clear). Basic mode of operation is to charge for hauling garbage or hazardous waste to a licensed management site, but stop short, dumping it along side the road, in a park, or in someone's front yard, saving on both fuel and disposal cost. Ending the short haul problem was one of the reasons Congress passed the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA). Sham recycling.
A successor scam to short hauling, one which often led to spectacular fires and explosions and sometimes to the ruination of entire community water supplies, is called "sham recycling." Local news producers would have had far less to broadcast back then, were it not for sham recycling.
Just as the name implies, the idea in sham recycling is to charge a fair price but do very little actual recycling. The result was most spectacular when sham recyclers accumulated vast quantitites of materials of high toxicity, or reactivity, or flammability, piling as many drums as possible of the most vile and dangerous stuff in warehouses, or on empty lots, adjacent to suburban homes or shopping malls. When the 'patented' recycling technology was shown to be a failure, or if insurance companies threatened to halt coverage after an inspection, there was generally an "accidental" fire or explosion which enabled the 'entrepreneurs" to head for Mexico. just as the news camera teams arrived. New Jersey seemed to have several of these sites popping off every week for a number of years
Many hundreds of emergency "Superfund" site cleanups resulted from sham recycling enterprises - with first response and subsequent cleanups often done at taxpayer expense.
Many corporations whose waste materials were being sham "recycled" were eventually forced to help pay for the cleanups. This 'squeeze' provided a perfect segue to outsourcing of manufacturing to places like Mexico or China: places that definitely had no RCRA law, and certainly no enforcement of environmental or safety regs, such as they were. Once manufacturing operations were in Asia, it was fairly easy to include materials of product construction that had been banned in the US: things like lead-based paint on toys, for example. When contamination was discovered to have spread even into consumer products, all you had to do was blame the Chinese. A very clever scam indeed.
Exempting oil drilling mud and fly ash from hazardous waste regulation happened in the mid 1980's, back when corporate environmental "advocacy," which is the politically correct term for lobbying, was just graduating from high school. Decades later, we have toxic drilling mud and saline water discharges contaminating ranches all over the US west and coal fly ash ponds collapsing and flooding downstream communities in the East. Lobbying to obtain regulatory exemptions or delaying compliance dates continues to this day. Donating (not auctioning) carbon emission credits to carbon intensive industries is a current example. The upshot is to make a company or a process to look far more benign than it objectively is.
Corn-based ethanol incentives.
Everyone knows that no substantial Federal incentives for corn based ethanol production would exist were it not for the fact Iowa, a huge corn growing state, has an early presidential primary every 4 years. The series of corn ethanol incentives were simply a means for politicians to buy votes in the corn belt. While ethanol does a great job as a benign gasoline oxygenate, for air quality enhancement, this function for ethanol was designed by EPA as a substitute for the more toxic MTBE, and has little to do with the 4 year cycle of Congress legislating bio-fuel incentives. Note that ethanol incentives are a bipartisan green scam. Always have been.
I've probably overlooked some of your favorite green scams. No carbon offsets listed as I like them, if done well. Regardless, I'm looking forward to your suggested additions.
More green scam posts.
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Greenpeace Says Bolivian Offset Project is One Big Carbon Scam ...
US Paper Industries Pull US$8 Billion Bio-Fuel Tax Credit Scam
Greenwash Watch: "Green" Bottled Water