OMAHA, Neb., May 2, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Iowa Environmental Council addresses Berkshire Hathaway’s lack of transparency. As shareholders, media, and onlookers descend on Omaha in May for the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting, the utopian spectacle hides dark realities. The carnival environment with picnics, vendors, and free swag helps buy public affinity, but it is important that shareholders cut through the noise to ask the real questions about the company’s investments and its future.
“It’s past time investors put their money where their talking points are,” said Kerri Johannsen, Energy Program Director with the Iowa Environmental Council. “Utilities owned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy are some of the top coal burners in the country, doubling down on expensive fossil fuels in Iowa and throughout the country, with no plan to quit. That’s not just a threat to the future of any number of industries that rely on a stable climate, it’s reckless investment.”
Here are three things you won’t hear at the shareholder meeting:
- Berkshire has a coal-heavy energy portfolio: While Berkshire has a Sustainability Leadership Council that supposedly works on “advancing best practices on sustainability and ESG-related areas,” it continues to operate some of the largest coal fleets in the country through its subsidiaries. According to the “Benchmarking Air Emissions” report, Berkshire Hathaway Energy had the fourth-highest CO2 emission (CO2 MT) among electric power producers in the U.S. while generating the ninth-most electricity. BHE’s generation mix is primarily coal-fueled, and in 2022 BHE relied on fossil fuel sources for 58% of its total generation. Often at its shareholder meeting, Berkshire highlights its energy companies like MidAmerican Energy in Iowa for their renewable energy leadership. However, what they’re not telling you is that MidAmerican Energy operates one of the largest coal fleets in the country, making its “100% Renewable Energy” vision nothing more than a PR tagline.
- Berkshire’s climate risk is substantial: Climate risk is financial risk. As financial regulators around the world struggle to manage the impact of climate change and the increased risk it presents for financial systems, Berkshire Hathaway has extensive climate-related liabilities. According to Insure Our Future, Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance operation is a top provider of insurance coverage to the coal industry. Fossil fuel projects and operations require insurance to initiate and operate and many major insurance companies have backed away from insuring new coal projects due to the risk. However, unlike many of its peers, Berkshire Hathaway has no restrictions on insuring fossil fuel projects. Insurance companies are in a unique position to accelerate the transition to a renewable energy future. It’s time for Berkshire Hathaway to invest in renewable energy before it’s too late.
- Berkshire’s leadership transition won’t move the needle on a coal-free future: Warren Buffett’s heir apparent Greg Abel comes from Berkshire Hathaway Energy, one of the biggest energy conglomerates in the country. Shareholders will hear praise for subsidiary MidAmerican Energy and its investment in wind turbines, but in reality, the company continues to operate one of the largest fleets of coal plants in the U.S., including one pumping out pollution less than ten miles from the gathering in Omaha. MidAmerican has not announced a public plan to phase out its coal plants before 2049, which leaves it vulnerable to additional risk and missing out on crucial federal incentives in the near term for a clean energy transition. This short-sighted leadership could have major implications for Berkshire as a whole.
“There was a time when MidAmerican Energy was a national leader on clean energy and climate. We believe that kind of action is possible again, but only if there is a plan in place for the company to move entirely away from coal by 2030,” said Katie Rock, Iowa Campaign Representative for Sierra Club Beyond Coal. “Those who call Iowa and Nebraska home deserve clean air and water and a healthy and prosperous future. It’s time for Berkshire Hathaway to step up.”
“Berkshire Hathaway’s coal plants in Iowa, owned and operated by MidAmerican Energy, are polluting both our air and our water, causing immense harm to our surrounding communities and to our relative, the Missouri River,” said Sikowis Nobiss, Executive Director at Great Plains Action Society. “Across the country, Indigenous communities and other communities of color often bear a disproportionate impact of pollution.”
The Iowa Environmental Council, Great Plains Action Society, and Sierra Club are part of the Clean Up MidAm Coalition, which was launched in 2022 to hold MidAmerican Energy accountable. The coalition includes multiple organizations including the Iowa Environmental Council, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Sierra Club, Clean Energy Districts of Iowa, Iowa Interfaith Power & Light, Moms Clean Air Force, and countless Iowans who care about the future of our state. Visit www.CleanUpMidAm.com for more information.
The Iowa Environmental Council (IEC) is the state’s largest and most comprehensive environmental alliance, comprised of diverse organizations and individuals working together to protect Iowa’s natural environment. Through education, advocacy and coalition building, the Council raises awareness, generates action, and creates large-scale change. We work on federal, state, and local public policy issues to ensure a just, healthy environment and sustainable future for all Iowans. Learn more at iaenvironment.org.
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.
SOURCE Iowa Environmental Council