Why Texaco's Red Star Turned a Little Green

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It's not often that a petroleum company manages to make environmentalists giddy with joy, but Texaco has managed the feat. The oil giant announced Wednesday that it has left the Global Climate Coalition, which, despite its sunny-sounding name, is a group of oil companies, automakers and utilities that has been an aggressive critic of studies linking global warming to emissions from fossil fuels. Texaco's move marks the third major desertion from the organization in as many months. "The GCC is facing a rash of defections," says TIME environment editor Charles Alexander. "Being a member is looking more and more ridiculous as time goes on" and more studies emerge definitively linking pollutants with rising temperatures. Recently departed members include BP/Amoco, Royal Dutch Shell, Ford and DaimlerChrysler.

Why are environmentalists so pleased over Texaco's decision? It is a signal that the giants of industry have started to come around to the green position, at least as far as global warming is concerned. "This is a sign that Texaco recognizes — as many oil and car companies have — that the GCC's slow response to global warming is increasingly untenable," says Alexander. And while no one is holding their breath for the merger of Greenpeace and BP, activists do have reason to celebrate recent victories: Many corporations are grasping the financial benefits of responding to environmental challenges. "Texaco and Ford and the rest are realizing there's a huge market for 'green' products," says Alexander. "And those innovations aren't just good public relations — they're good business."