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Dell Inc. Plans to Become ‘Carbon Neutral’ by 2008

Wall Street Journal – September 27, 2007

This was a short article in the Wall Street Journal which is good because it has little news worthiness and, in my opinion, is more PR than good environmentalism.

First of all, CO2 waste is not a huge factor in the assembly  and marketing of computers which is what Dell does. It is relatively easy for these companies to reduce their CO2 use and even if they didn’t, they really aren’t affecting the carbon dioxide atmospheric content much.  So this is a big "so what" especially when you take into account the next few items.

Second, apparently what they are doing is buying carbon offsets. This is likely of limited value since carbon offset programs are not well run and have limited ability to reduce environmental impact.  I have written about offsets often and you can see many of those articles here.

Third, if Dell really wants to be environmentally sound they should be producing products that use less energy.  Yes, they ship Energy Saver monitors but so what. How about developing computers that use 10% of the energy than today’s computers currently use?

Fourth, the production of computers is very high in toxic waste.  Let’s see Dell cut 90% of the toxic waste out of their supply chain.

Fifth, Dell sells a lot of laptops. The batteries in laptops are a huge environmental waste problem since their innards are extremely toxic. Let’s see Dell develop new battery technology that won’t pollute our drinking water for a million years.

Sixth, is in reference to drinking water. The water used to create Dell’s chips is so pure that it exceeds the levels that are required for surgical use. It is much better than the water required to hydrate a human. Each chip in a Dell computer takes 5-10 gallons of incredibly pure water.  A typical microprocessor plant uses more water in a day than the typical family uses in 40 years! Since the lack of drinking water is a much more serious environmental concern than carbon dioxide, I would like to see Dell say that it is cutting 90% of its fresh water usage out of its supply chain.

And seventh, the amount of energy that Dell’s suppliers use in the production of the components (including cleaning all of that water) does not appear to be included in this carbon neutral statement.  What kind of BS is that? Dell should commit that their entire supply chain from beginning to consumer is carbon neutral. Right now they are only doing a little and trying to claim the PR win.

Unfortunately, the other blogs seemed to be giving Dell a pass on this.  Shame on them.  Here are a few links and at least the Greenpeace blog (kind of) condemns the carbon offset approach.
Dell Plans To Go Carbon Neutral By Next Year
Dell to go "carbon neutral"
Dell (DELL) set to become ‘carbon neutral’ in just over a year

My comments on the Dell news actually exceeded the WSJ story!

Dell Inc. Chief Executive Michael Dell said the computer maker will become "carbon neutral" by 2008, and he challenged the high-technology industry to waste less energy.

Mr. Dell said companies have become more efficient, but he said further progress is needed because global energy consumption is expected to grow rapidly over the next few decades. A company becomes "carbon neutral" by matching its carbon emissions with green technological projects or purchasing an "offsetting" amount of emissions from other sources.

Here is the link to the WSJ news story.

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