This is an interesting report on remarks by General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt.  He confessed to Reuters that GE’s focus on the environmentally friendly aspects of its wind turbines and high-efficiency appliances might have led his critics to believe he was more interested in saving the planet than growing the company.

If I had one thing to do over again I would not have talked so much about green … I’m kind of over the stage of arguing for a comprehensive energy policy.  I’m back to keeping my head down and working …

Renewable energy makes good sense when it is commercially viable (within a framework that takes account of environmental externalities).  But as a recent Financial Times article noted:

Since at least the 1970s, greens have argued that wind and solar, when combined with energy efficiency, could meet our energy needs without resort to nuclear power or fossil fuels. Faith in what is called the ‘soft energy path’ has taken on an almost religious quality among green activists. Yet, despite decades of subsidies, solar and wind still make up a tiny percentage of energy virtually everywhere in the world.

General Electric may have learned the lessons of BP, Enron and other companies that over-egged their green credentials.  Critics dubbed BP’s rebranding as ‘Beyond Plausibility’.  This looks even more valid in the light of the Gulf oil spill and BP’s expansion into oil and gas in Russia.

Business executives should know better than to be caught up with fads and fashions.  How often do we hear about ‘triple bottom line’ accounting these days?


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