Study: Duke Energy flunks international group's climate change challenge

Jeff Davidson of Davidson Sign Services of Safety Harbor installs a Duke Energy sign on the company's office building at 299 First Ave. N in St. Petersburg as a co-worker assists from behind the wall. CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times (2013)
Jeff Davidson of Davidson Sign Services of Safety Harbor installs a Duke Energy sign on the company's office building at 299 First Ave. N in St. Petersburg as a co-worker assists from behind the wall.CHERIE DIEZ | Times (2013)
Published September 16 2015
Updated September 17 2015

Duke Energy ranks among the worst of the world's 100 largest companies that are "obstructing climate change legislation," according to a study released Wednesday.

Announced by the London nonprofit group InfluenceMap, the study evaluated companies' public statements and membership in trade groups, and said that corporations have a significant impact on policy that's often hard to track, Bloomberg News reports.

Duke, the largest U.S. utility owner by market value and a prominent electricity provider in west-central Florida, was one of only four companies given an F grade in the study. Procter & Gamble received an E minus. Google Inc., Unilever NV and Cisco Systems Inc. received B grades and were listed as having the most positive influence among the 100 companies measured.

"More and more, we're seeing companies rely on their trade groups to do their dirty work of lobbying against comprehensive climate policies," Gretchen Goldman, an adviser to InfluenceMap and the lead analyst for the Center for Science & Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, said in a statement. "Companies get the delay in policy they want, while preventing nations from acting to fight climate change."

InfluenceMap evaluated statements and messages that companies — and trade associations they're affiliated with — have disseminated on their websites and through social media. The nonprofit is backed by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

Duke criticized the study's methodology.

"We question the credibility of a report that appears to compile an Internet search to mischaracterize the company's position and our real work to lower our carbon footprint," Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan told Bloomberg. "We take an active role to support environmental policies that will result in reasonable decreases in greenhouse gas emissions that balance the impact to customer rates and reliability."

She said Duke had replaced 40 coal-fired plants with ones that burn natural gas.

The study specifically cites Duke's role in Florida in discouraging energy conservation, though it does not address Duke's political fight against the advance of solar power in the state.

"Duke Energy appears opposed to most strands of climate change policy and regulations," the study concludes.

According to Bloomberg, InfluenceMap released the study a week before world leaders including Pope Francis are scheduled to meet in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, where climate change is expected to be one of the main topics. Less than three months later, more than 190 nations are sending envoys to Paris for U.N.-organized climate negotiations. After years of talks, this meeting is expected to end with a binding pact to limit carbon emissions.

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