Monday, Steve Walt posted about the environment, drawing reader attention to several corporate efforts to make themselves greener. When I read those kinds of items, I always suspect “greenwashing.”

Actually, to be fair, Walt noted that Jared Diamond wrote about these business initiatives in the NY Times. This one caught my eye:

Walmart is working to reduce its energy expenditures because energy (e.g., fuel for delivery trucks) is expensive;

Environmentalists frequently point out that Wal-mart’s alleged energy savings are designed only to save the company money. Consumers (more and more all the time) have to drive great distances to get to Wal-mart and thus more than make up for whatever conservation the company achieves.

Moreover, as I noted in mid-October, Wal-mart has essentially outsourced serious environmental costs to China. The company’s world buying headquarters is in Shenzhen, an industrial city of more than 10 million people that is part of a “special economic zone” in China. As a result of lax environmental standards, the United Nations Environment Programme reported in 2007 that Shenzhen is heading for ecological disaster.

Wal-mart’s business practices (including its low prices) have serious adverse ecological consequences that cannot be readily countered with corporate cost-cutting measures that also happen to save energy.