Report shows electricity industry knew 50 years ago fossil fuels could harm climate


A report by the Energy and Policy Institute found that the electricity industry has known since 1968 that burning fossil fuels can lead to global warming. (flickr/Walter Keller)

Katelyn Weisbrod | August 1, 2017

An energy watchdog group revealed through documents that the U.S. electricity industry was informed in 1968 that burning fossil fuels could cause climate change. The Energy and Policy Institute attests the industry doubted the science behind the idea, and continued to burn fossil fuels to produce electricity.

The documents showed at a 1968 convention for the Edison Electric Institute, Lyndon Johnson’s science advisor alerted the institute that carbon emissions could “trigger catastrophic effects.”

The full report, titled Utilities Knew: Documenting Electric Utilities’ Early Knowledge and Ongoing Deception on Climate Change from 1968-2017, details the rise of climate research during this time period, and cases of denial and public misinformation by the utilities.

Many electric utilities across the nation supported climate research in the 1970s and 1980s. Around this same time, scientists began to warn that fossil fuels may not be a long-term option to produce electricity.

The report found evidence that some major utilities, such as Pacific Gas & Electric and American Electric Power, worked in 1989 to incite doubt and deny certain causes of climate change.

The Edison Electric Institute declined to comment on the Energy and Policy Institute’s findings to Reuters, but Jeff Ostermayer, a spokesperson for the Institute, told the online publication that as of 2016, the electric industry has reduced carbon emissions by 25 percent since 2005. The institute is an association of electric companies from all 50 states serving 220 million Americans.

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