As other news outlets begin covering the climate-gas debate, more questions arise about role of Duke Energy’s public radio advertising
More than 400 public radio supporters and listeners have called on WUNC Radio management to help the public better understand the causes and potential solutions to the accelerating climate crisis, and they expressed their concern that “WUNC may be downplaying the dangers of Duke Energy’s growing use of natural gas,” particularly in light of Duke’s prominent advertising on the station.
Meanwhile, station owner UNC-Chapel Hill has so far declined to provide data about Duke Energy’s voluminous advertising on WUNC, which NC WARN is seeking under the NC Public Records Act.
Key station supporters joined NC WARN in soliciting signatures on today’s letter, which follows a comprehensive August 28 complaint from NC WARN updating our long-running concern that journalists at WUNC and other news outlets have been prevented from scrutinizing Duke Energy and other utilities that are making the climate crisis worse by greatly expanding the use of fracked “natural” gas.
That curtain of silence has blocked public awareness about the climate-wrecking impacts of gas, along with the hopeful news that renewables matched with energy storage are quickly advancing in the many states that recognize they are less expensive and more reliable than gas and coal.
Last week, several outlets in North Carolina and beyond broke through with stories on Drew Shindell, an internationally prominent climatologist now at Duke University, who publicly called for Gov. Roy Cooper to lead a national ban on expanded use of gas for electricity. Dr. Shindell insists that building more gas pipelines and power plants runs counter to global commitments to slow climate change. (Just today, the editorial boards of both the Raleigh News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer came out against gas expansions including the flailing Atlantic Coast Pipeline.)
Charlotte public radio, WFAE, also ran a fine story on Dr. Shindell’s courageous announcement, but neither WUNC nor NPR appears to have run it despite their frequent sharing of content. Today’s letter to WUNC station manager and president Connie Walker says, in part:
“We encourage you to bring WUNC listeners the same kind of comprehensive reporting on energy and climate that you bring to other issues. … We have grown increasingly disturbed about accelerating weather extremes and sea level rise that are harming many North Carolinians and others worldwide, and by the science showing that – without dramatic global action – humanity is fast approaching a climate point of no return. What can North Carolinians do to help?
“As NC WARN’s [August 28] letter indicates, essential ways to slow the climate crisis are available but remain mostly unexamined. Prominent scientists say … the large expansion of fracked gas by Duke Energy is taking this state in the wrong direction.”
Walker hasn’t responded to NC WARN’s August 28th letter, but since that time Duke Energy has expanded its deceptive advertising on the station, including another claim that the corporation is committed to increasing its solar power across North Carolina. Official filings show that in 2033, Duke plans to be only 8% renewable in the Carolinas – lower than the current national average for utilities.
Its executives spend millions of customer dollars each year to make North Carolinians think Duke Energy is green. Media bosses need to let their news divisions scrutinize Duke’s actual practices. It’s not a democracy if corporate propaganda supplants journalism.