How green is Quebec, or, Not a bill, a bill of goods from Hydro

Posted 03.14.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Hydro-Quebec is extending its campaign to have homeowners ditch old fridges in favour of new models more efficient to operate. The pitch is that each family 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 questions unanswered.

Without these answers, the replace-your-fridge promotion should be recognized by the public as a scam.

This campaign could 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.

Second, Hydro calculates the savings of the new machines -- could we see those numbers? Are the fridges really so efficient to justify a big-ticket purchase and a big-dump in the landfills?

Until we have proof of efficiency, why would we believe Hydro any more than believe the auto-makers who they tell us their new cars are so much more efficient, when, in fact, the km/litre is only slightly better than the 1970s?

Third, when Hydro calculates the savings in operating a new fridge, are they calculating in the energy and resources used to build those new fridges? I'm betting they aren'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 advertisements, Hydro-Quebec!

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?

And we might also wonder where these appliances are being built. Is Hydro Quebec shilling for China? What are the costs of that to our economy and our jobs?

The savings in daily energy use of a new fridge will have to be phenomenal, not marginal, to justify 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 don't flog this as green until it's proven to be so. At present there is no proof on paper.

A 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 equitable? I hope this observation is due to my own blindness, not the result of a marketing decision made by Hydro's agents.

Until these questions are answered, we're being sold a bill of goods, under the banner of being green.

Copyright © 2011 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/03.11