I’m at REFF-West — a clean tech conference in Seattle — today. These conferences are a dime a dozen these days, so I probably won’t bombard you with tons of posts. But as I was listening to Kostya L. Zolotusky of Boeing, I had a thought.
Aviation is considered one of the top evil-doers by green campaigners. Not only do planes spew tons of greenhouse gases, but they spew them far up in the atmosphere where they do exponentially more damage. Greens worldwide (particularly in Europe) are basically trying to shut down or substantially curtail aviation.
Meanwhile, Boeing is saying that biofuel flying is three years away.
The inevitable reaction from enviros is to assume that this is, um, bullsh*t — that Boeing is going to mix its carbon-spewing fuels with biodiversity-destroying ethanol and claim a PR victory. That is: enviros assume Boeing is greenwashing.
But watching Zolotusky talk, you’d have trouble distinguishing him from one of those activists. He rejected corn ethanol in incredibly strong terms. He almost aggressively dismissed most of the current biofuel efforts in the U.S. — "call them subsidy efforts, not environmental efforts." He had an engineer’s sort of swagger, like he was eager to crack the sustainable aviation fuel puzzle, just because people kept saying he couldn’t. Why would a guy like that want to get by on BS?
This is not to start a big debate over aviation (remember: performance standards, not mode preferences!). It is just to say that the environmental activist’s stereotype of the slimy corporate greenwasher is entirely divorced from what I’ve personally experienced, having rubbed shoulders which quite a few business types in the last few years. This is not to say that particular industries aren’t spinning wildly, or that there aren’t wildly deceptive green claims flying around, but from what I’ve seen, the corporate world is increasingly filled with people who are fired up to find genuine solutions to environmental problems.
Remember: These are proud, ambitious people. They want to kick ass and crush competition, no matter what goal they’re pursuing. Lying, spinning, and greenwashing might please some execs, but most people below that level find it manifestly unsatisfying.