HP Claims Oil Profits Don’t Tarnish Green Image

Green-ITInnovation

Computer maker Hewlett-Packard says its environmental practices date back 50 years although it only began measuring carbon emissions in 2005

Senior executives from HP’s energy and environmental divisions have defended the company’s green credentials despite its policy of profiting from fossil fuel production exploration.

Hewlett-Packard is commited to cutting its own carbon emissions, but it is also happy to profit directly from the tools and services it sells to utility companies for fossil fuel production and exploration, said the European chairman of HP’s environmental board Klaus Hieronymi at HP’s 9th Executive Energy Conference 2009 event in Budapest,

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Hieronymi denied that there was any hypocrisy: “I think the oil and gas industries have the same challenges as everyone,” he told eWEEK Europe at the event. “I think its an illusion to say that we will reduce our dependency on oil and gas in the next five years. No way. So the challenge is to make sure that we still have the appropriate reserves there and help the oil and gas industry to find more.”

Hieronymi’s views were reiterated by Douglas Hanson, HP director of Global Energy, who said that fossil fuels would continue to be important for another 20 years.

“We will have fossil fuels as a primary energy source for transportation and electricity generation for the next couple of decades,” he said.

Hanson added that HP was focused on helping utility companies and the fossil fuel industry to optimise processes and produce efficiency. “Energy is a huge cost in the production of energy so it is all a game of optimisation,” he said.

He added that computerisation of oil production and exploration could help reduce habitat damage by avoiding unnecessary drilling and other activities. “So how do we do that all in good conscience? A lot more exploration is done in a computer today than in the field. Similarly a lot of oil production is done in reservoir simulation,” said Hanson.

HP has made much of its progress on environmental issues and cited Newsweek’s decision to put the computer maker at the top of its newly launched Green Rankings of the top 500 companies in the US. “Strong programs to reduce GHG emissions. The first major IT company to report GHG emissions associated with its supply chain. Has made an effort to remove toxic substances from its products, but Greenpeace has targeted it for failing to do better,” Newsweek commented on HP’s green progress to date.

On its environmental pages, the company states, “Over the last 50 years, HP has been an industry leader in reducing its impact on the environment”.

But despite this “leadership”, Hieronymi admitted that the company has only been collected carbon emissions data since 2005 and uses this as its carbon emissions baseline. “Most big companies did not calculate the carbon output earlier than 2005 or 2006. I could do a back of the envelope calculation that could come up with any estimate you wanted using different assumptions,” he said.

Other companies do have carbon reporting data that dates back to the 1990s. UK communications and IT services company BT for example, states that it made carbon commitments as far back as 1992, although it did not start measuring carbon emissions till 1996 when it said it would reduce its carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2006.

Green campaigners say that carbon cuts are only meaningful if they are based on a commonly accepted baseline and any carbon reductions should only be counted when they reach a level below that of the baseline.

Last year the EU said member states should cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. The UN advisory body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has recommended that developed nations cut emissions by 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. In the US for example, total emissions levels in 2005 were around 18 percent higher than 1990 levels.

HP’s Hieronymi said that HP would be unable to back-date its carbon emissions because it does not have the data from earlier than 2005. “We couldn’t do it because we don’t have the data. The first thing that you need to do to change is to measure,” he said.

He added that the company potentially produced more carbon back in the 1990s then it does at present despite continued growth in the intervening years. “If you look at say our car fleet back in 1990s, we had cars that were consuming 12, 13 or 14 litres per 100 kilometers. Nowadays our car fleet is producing much less than half of that.”