FedEx bets on the California sunshine

But what's the company going to do when it absolutely, positively has to offset its humongous carbon footprint?

By Andrew Leonard

Published April 22, 2008 8:02PM (EDT)

FedEx announced today that it has completed the installation of solar power systems at its facilities in Whittier and Fontana, Calif. This is on top of a huge solar installation at its Oakland, Calif., airport hub, completed in 2005.

For several years now, FedEx has striven to portray itself as a company with its heart in a green place, even if it hasn't always gotten the best reviews from climate change scorekeepers. The company buys oodles of renewable energy certificates, and has converted a portion of its ground fleet to hybrid vehicles.

But it's going to have to do a lot more. As the operator of the largest privately owned fleet of jets in the world (671 and counting), FedEx boasts an enormous carbon footprint. If an effective cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emission system is ever legislated into place, FedEx will face a large bill.

But what about the solar power investments? Couldn't that count toward offsetting some of the ill effects of its fuel consumption?

In FedEx's press release announcing the new solar installations, the company claims that the "combined environmental benefits from the Whittier and Fontana solar-energy systems" adds up to an annual reduction of 610 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

Six hundred and ten metric tons, FedEx proudly tells us, is equal to 69,240 gallons of gasoline not burned. Yay!

In 2006, FedEx consumed 1.3 billion gallons of fuel.

A rough calculation suggests FedEx would need another 18,000 or so Whittiers and Fontanas to offset its annual fuel consumption. Or, the company could just cut a check. The current price for a permit to emit a metric don of carbon dioxide on the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme is about $40. So I'm figuring about $450 million ought to cover it.

Still, it's a start.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Environment Global Warming Globalization How The World Works