On Aug. 18, a small group of activists stood outside Imperium Renewables headquarters, protesting the recent investment of $10 million worth of Seattle city employees' pensions in that company. Imperium, which specializes in biodiesel refining, would seem at first glance to be a wise investment.
Not exactly, says Duff Badgley of One Earth, a Seattle-based environmental advocacy group.
With respect to the financial wisdom of the investment, Imperium--a fairly young business in a fairly new industry--may not be an ideal place for $10 million in pensions. These vital assets, writes the Puget Sound Business Journal, are typically invested in less-risky stocks, bonds, and real estate.
But the investment may not be an environmentally sound one, either.
"One of the problems of the Kyoto Accord is that it completely ignores country of origin," says Badgley. In other words, the thousands of gallons of petroleum burned during the transportation of palm oil from Indonesia to Gray's Harbor complicate any notions of environmental responsibility. The Seattle-based company has a refinery in Gray's Harbor.
That's not to mention the acres of rainforest lost to "slash-and-burn" style farming. Through this kind of deforestation, says Badgley, Indonesia and Malaysia alone contribute roughly 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year, and have displaced in the process nearly 5 million native inhabitants of those areas.
The pattern shows no signs of slowing -- Indonesia announced plans last year to devote nearly fifty times more acreage to palm plantations.
"This is just the kind of fuzzy thinking," says Badgley, "that allows the West to drive guilt-free."