Why Does Apple Want Lisa Jackson and Her Ethical Cloud?

Published June 3, 2013

Apple‘s hiring of former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson last week gives her a soft landing place, after she fled her cabinet role spurred by a flurry of evasions and deceits over alias email accounts she and her underlings used to hide correspondence from the public. Her would-be successor, Gina McCarthy, seeks to be confirmed under the same cloud.

It’s unclear why Apple would want or need Jackson, as its (faux) environmentalist credibility is already well established, and the Mac maker already boasts the top figurehead of eco-figureheads on its board of directors, Al Gore.

That’s not to say the evasive, deceptive Jackson isn’t a fit for Apple, a company with a reputation for falsely claiming “green”-friendly policies when the truth shows otherwise. Also like Jackson, the Cupertino, Calif. clan isn’t shy about piling on sky-high costs for the massive amounts of electricity it needs for services like iCloud and iTunes, which rather than being incorporated into the costs of its offerings, instead are shifted onto other unsuspecting power customers. That’s a concept that Jackson, who never met a punish-the-fossil-fuels scheme she didn’t absolutely love, can easily embrace.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Chris Horner caught the departing EPA administrator using an email address with an alternative identity, “Richard Windsor,” to cloak correspondence she wanted shielded from public scrutiny. Horner discovered the concealed account in November last year, and within a month and a half Jackson had announced her resignation. Despite a number of Freedom of Information Act requests that sought “Windsor’s” messages and those of other top EPA officials with alternative identities, the agency has delayed responses and the delivery of records repeatedly, prompting CEI to file appeals and lawsuits.

Once Horner pried loose documents – said to total 12,000 pages, according to the Department of Justice (much less was actually produced) – they were heavily redacted, despite a court order that permitted only “legitimate withholdings.” Also blacked out were messages CEI sought that had to do with McCarthy’s role in the Obama administration’s “War on Coal,” which was largely under her authority as Jackson’s Assistant Administrator for Air.

“You would think after having one administrator resign in disgrace over a false identity email account, the administration that claims to the most transparent ever would move quickly to demonstrate something resembling openness on her appointed successor’s records,” Horner said in March. “But the administration has decided to do exactly the opposite, and go even further to keep from the public what its top environmental officials are doing.”

Republicans on at least two House committees, as well as GOP members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (including ranking minority member David Vitter of Louisiana) have questioned Jackson and EPA over its lack of transparency, with no better response than CEI received. Republicans on the Senate committee staged a walkout of a hearing to delay McCarthy’s confirmation, but she was ultimately approved on a 10-8 party line vote. The obfuscation practices appear to be an EPA-wide team effort.

“(McCarthy) has persisted in EPA’s stonewalling of my request for information about taxpayer funds wasted on an unnecessary reconsideration of the ozone standard — a request I have waited almost two years to be answered,” said Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, another member of the EPW Committee. “In addition, she did not answer my questions about EPA’s sue and settle tactics, and she has refused to provide EPA’s analysis concerning the president’s faulty assertion that global temperatures are increasing more than was predicted a decade ago.”

With Gore on its team and groups like Greenpeace on its back, Apple has employed similarly costly and misleading tactics that they justify with the same unsupported conclusions about global warming. But bottom-line concerns and stock price don’t comport with environmental pressure groups’ demands that giant tech companies reject coal and nuclear power in favor of “renewables” such as wind and solar. Various scorecards by eco-graders, some which give Apple plaudits (Climate Counts) while others say they’re terrible (Greenpeace), don’t make the appeasement business any easier.

That’s why Apple finds itself in contortions trying to keep its energy costs low (good for profits) while pretending it uses high-cost renewable electricity. As NLPC has reported extensively, for example, one of the company’s most important data facilities for cloud computing was established in western North Carolina, where Duke Energy has the coaland nuke generation resources to deliver cheap power.

The additional benefit in working with the nation’s largest investor-owned utility is that Apple had a willing partner that would play the renewables-PR charade. Apple clear-cut (and burnedhundreds of acres of land in order to build two massive solar farms, and also added 10 megawatts of extremely expensive Bloom Energy fuel cells, which enviros like to claim are renewable. The company now boasts that it generates 100 percent of its electricity for its data centers from renewable sources.

But Apple would not ever have located its computer servers in Maiden, N.C., if it had to pay what renewable energy sources truly cost, nor would sporadically sunny (and non-sunny at night) foothills of the Tar Heel state have come close to meeting the insatiable needs of cloud-computing iTunes users. So how does the Apple-Duke three-step work? The computing giant sells the pricey power for Duke to feed its grid, while Apple enjoys a generous discount for the enormous amounts of electricity it takes from the grid. Meanwhile the rest of Duke’s customers pay foroverall higher-priced electricity that is built into its rates.

It’s a sleight-of-hand scheme befitting the likes of a master distracter like Lisa Jackson, and Greenpeace approved the move.

“Jackson can make Apple the top environmental leader in the tech sector by helping the company use its influence to push electric utilities and governments to provide the clean energy that both Apple and America need right now,” said Gary Cook, a Greenpeace IT analyst.

Still Apple, Al Gore and conspirators like Duke Energy did just fine without her, and they certainly don’t need her ethical cloud.

“Tim Cook should think twice,” said Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank that also owns stock in Apple. “President Obama’s cabinet officers may get away with all kinds of things (or they may not, in the end), but the Responsible Corporate Officer Doctrine makes CEOs potentially criminally liable for any misdeeds of subordinates, even if they don’t know about them.

“So if [email protected] ever gets up to no good, Tim Cook might have to explain why he didn’t see it coming, and it would be a good question, because anyone who tries to cover up what she is doing as an officer of the government could very well try some sort of shenanigans in the private sector.”

[First published by National Legal and Policy Center]