Thursday, January 04, 2007

How Long can Hatred Last?

If a corporation starts to make a change in a positive direction, is it possible to still loath them? For years, I was one of the many who championed the anti-Wal-Mart cause. I decried their taking over of the traditional family run stores across small-town America. I seethed when I read some of their less than fair labor practices. I cheered when a town near me successfully blocked their insertion into the town lifestyle.

However, Wal-Mart has made some encouraging signs to rectify those stigmas. And one of the best ones I have seen so far is this: Wal-Mart is looking to jump into solar power in a big way. According to the article on ZDnet, if completed as planned Wal-Mart will be generating 100MW of power in the next five years. To put that into perspective, Google's much heralded facility installation is supplying 1.6MW - smaller than 1/60th of the proposed Wal-Mart plan. I am a big fan of solar power. I think that, with all the rooftop acrage in this country (and world), there is enough space to harness vast amounts of energy. It is just sitting there, waiting to be tapped. And for Wal-Mart, a former hated enemy, to take up the forefront of this cause, is good news, but a bit puzzling as well.

These people had been the object of so much vitriol from environmentalists, urban planners, labor groups, and consumer groups, that perhaps now they are trying to turn the tide. Are they doing it to lessen the negative publicity that always surrounds them? That's part of it, no doubt. But that cannot be all of it. In October of last year, Wal-Mart president and CEO Lee Scott spoke on Wal-Mart's short-term goals, including a commitment to invest $500 million a year in energy efficiency and technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Has Wal-Mart been the enemy? Yes. But is it more important that they are starting to change and do the right thing? Absolutely.

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