Hydro-Québec "green-washes" its new fridge campaign

Posted 03.21.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Hydro-Québec is continuing its campaign to have homeowners ditch their old fridges in favour of new models that are more efficient to operate. The pitch is that each household will save money on their hydro bills and will enjoy a newer appliance, while the environment will benefit by less energy demand overall.

That's a skimpy argument, and the campaign leaves innumerable questions unanswered.

Without a few of these answers, the replace-your-fridge promotion should be recognized by the public as, frankly, a scam. This campaign actually looks like it will cause more environmental stress and pollution, not less.

First, Hydro is asking us to discard our old appliances. How is that done? Dumped on the curb, or traded in to appliance shops? Where will the carcasses of all those old machines end up? What's "green" in dumping thousands of working appliances into landfills, before or after they've been stripped?

Hydro has to tell us what is the end location of all those old (but working) fridges? And add a note about recycling the freon, or any newer refrigerant gas, please.

Second, Hydro has calculated the future savings of the new machines -- could we see those studies? Are the fridges really so efficient to justify a big-ticket purchase and a big-dump into the landfills?

Until we have proof of efficiency, why would we believe Hydro any more than believe the auto makers who insist their new cars are so much more efficient, when, in fact, most km/litre estimates are only slightly better than way back in the 1970s?

Third, when Hydro calculates the savings in operating a new fridge, are they calculating into their numbers all the energy and resources used to build those new fridges? I'm betting they haven't, and it's a little scary to think of what it is costing in emissions, energy use, and resources to build thousands of new fridges. Put those figures into your promotion, Hydro-Québec!

Fourth, is the energy used and the emissions created in transporting the new and old appliances to the stores and homes, and to the recycling and landfill facilities, also calculated into the equation? Why not?

Fifth, we might wonder where these new, efficient appliances are being built. Is Hydro Quebec shilling for China? What are the costs of that to our economy and our jobs? And when China destroys its own air quality it is destroying our air quality, since air has few boundaries.

Is Hydro-Quebec actually supporting China's lack of environmental protection, not to mention its lack of protection for its working people? So far, it looks like it.

Folks, the savings in daily energy use with a new fridge will have to be phenomenal, not marginal, to justify all these other costs, which appear to be left out of the calculations. It's great to save a few bucks and nice to have a shiny new fridge, but Hydro-Quebec shouldn't flog this as "green" until it's proven to be so. At present there is absolutely no proof on paper to back up these efficiency claims.

One final and touchy final question is why is this campaign not open to anglophones in Quebec?

I have only seen it promoted in French, in unilingual French media. Is that proper? I hope my observations are due to my own short-sightedness, not the result of an ugly marketing decision by Hydro's agents.

Until these questions are answered, we're being sold a bill of goods, under the banner of being "green". We expect much more of Hydro-Québec.


Copyright © 2013 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/03.13