News media, other institutions must challenge deceptive corporate ads and other influence in 2020
North Carolina voters are being badly misled by corporate propaganda from Duke Energy instead of accurately informed by news media and others, according to a statewide poll released today by NC WARN. In a state prideful of its civic accomplishments, these findings should be a wake-up call for news bosses, educators, public officials and other civic leaders.
Through its prodigious advertising and other communications, Duke Energy constantly brags about being green – propaganda that clashes head-on with official documents filed with regulators. Key findings of the poll, conducted December 13-15 by Public Policy Polling, include:
- 75% of voters think Duke Energy is more renewable in the Carolinas than the 3-4% it really is (as a percentage of total generation), more than half of those voters think Duke is more than twice as renewable as it is, and 1 in 6 voters thinks Duke is at least 5 times more renewable than it is.
- 56% of voters think that Duke “is transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables such as solar or wind power.” In fact, Duke projects to build nearly 12,000 megawatts of generation from climate-wrecking natural gas by 2033 in the Carolinas alone – the equivalent of 30 large power plants –and the notorious Atlantic Coast Pipeline to fuel them. The Charlotte-based corporation projects to be only 5 percent renewable by the end of next year, and only 8% renewable in 2033* – lower than the current national average for utilities.
- More than half of voters think – incorrectly – that building natural gas pipelines and power plants will lead to electricity that’s cheaper than solar power.
So, at the very time that the world’s leading climate scientists, including Duke University’s Drew Shindell, insist that we must be closing fossil fuel projects, one of the world’s largest climate-polluting electricity corporations plans to greatly expand fossil fuels while limiting renewables – the exact opposite of what a majority of voters have been led to believe.
As NC WARN and Friends of the Earth have exposed in our ongoing influence money case at the NC Utilities Commission, Duke spends tens of millions of customer dollars every year to buy favor and make people think it’s green. That’s because corporate leaders know the public wants them to be green.
The Center for Biological Diversity recently reported that Duke Energy leads the nation in utility greenwashing, painting the false picture – via advertisements, websites, investor reports, etc. – that it’s big on renewables. Similarly, the Energy and Policy Institute details in a report this month that Duke is among the major utilities that use charitable giving “to manipulate politics, policies and regulation in ways designed to increase shareholder profits, often at the expense of low-income communities …”.
NC WARN has been openly critical of WUNC radio for running Duke Energy’s deceptive ads while not scrutinizing the issues involved. But in fact, very few news outlets have reported on Duke’s vast fracked gas expansion, its anti-renewable actions, or the fact that energy storage is rapidly helping renewable energy beat natural gas on price and reliability across the U.S.
We call on all news outlets – particularly those taking ad money from Duke Energy – to scrutinize the corporate propaganda and stop running Duke’s deceptive ads, at least during news programming.
* Duke Energy Integrated Resource Plan Update Report, filed in September 2019, p. 66.