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Walmart's Dependency on Coal Responsible for 8 Million Tons of Carbon Pollution
New Report Reveals Retailer’s Heavy Dependency on Coal-Fired Electricity, Undermining Company’s Pledge to Be an Environmental Leader
WASHINGTON - As a growing group of environmental leaders call on Walmart to stop greenwashing and commit to real sustainability, a new study finds that Walmart is one of the nation’s largest users of coal-fired electricity and its heavy reliance on dirty power pumps nearly 8 million metric tons of carbon pollution into the air each year.
In its latest report, Walmart’s Dirty Energy Secret, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) calculates the total electricity use, coal-fired power consumption and resulting greenhouse gas emissions of every Walmart store and distribution center in the country. According to the report, Walmart’s U.S. operations use nearly six times the amount of electricity as the entire U.S. auto industry. The operations use more than 4.2 million tons of coal each year, accounting for nearly 75 percent of the company’s total emissions from U.S. electricity use.
“Walmart has made remarkably little progress in moving to renewable energy, while other national retailers and many small businesses are now generating a sizable share of their power from clean sources,” said Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher at ILSR and co-author of the new report. “Despite making a public commitment to sustainability nine years ago, Walmart still favors dirty coal-generated electricity over solar and wind, because the company insists on using the cheapest power it can find.”
Many other retailers, including Kohl’s and Ikea, are dramatically outpacing Walmart in the shift to renewable energy. Ikea has installed rooftop solar panels on 90 percent of its U.S. stores, including in many heavy coal-using states where Walmart has no renewable energy projects. Walmart’s few clean energy projects do little to offset its heavy reliance on coal-fired electricity, providing just 3 percent of its total U.S. electricity.
At the same time, the company spends millions of dollars in political donations to candidates who favor dirty energy and oppose action on climate change. In the 2011-2012 election cycle, more than half of the Congressional candidates supported by Walmart and the Walton family received a 100% Dirty Energy Money score from Oil Change International.
“Rather than fulfill the climate commitments it’s been making for years, Walmart is continuing to hurt the health and prosperity of our communities and families while endangering our planet.” said Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club. “Walmart can start living up to its purported values by ending the company’s heavy reliance on dirty coal and respecting their workers.”
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“It’s unconscionable that the country’s largest employer and the world’s largest company is choosing to hurt our planet and hurt working families with its dirty operations and poverty pay,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder and president of 350.org. “Walmart and the Waltons can help our communities truly live better by switching to clean energy and paying workers a fair wage.”
“Walmart could single-handedly strengthen the middle class and help create a vibrant clean energy economy that promotes good jobs, said Jeremy Hays, executive director of Green For All, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to building an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty. “After years of empty promises, Walmart should use be using its power and wealth to build stronger and more sustainable communities, not disrespecting workers and endangering the future of our planet.”
Walmart’s reliance on coal-fired electricity is adding to carbon pollution in a number of states, including Missouri, Illinois, Ohio and Texas. In the 10 states where Walmart uses the most coal-fired electricity, the company is responsible for consuming more than 2 million short tons of coal each year, equivalent to nearly 4 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. In Missouri and Illinois, where there are many highly-polluting coal plants, Walmart uses about 900 million kilowatt hours of coal-fired electricity annually, resulting in over 900,000 metric tons of carbon pollution.
“In Missouri, residents are calling for cleaner energy sources, rather than continued reliance on our aging and dirty coal plants that poison the air and water, “ said Jeff Ordower, executive director of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment. “Rather than stand with Missouri in its efforts to go green, Walmart’s St. Louis supercenter uses more coal than any of its other U.S. stores. The one Walmart store pumps out more than 4,100 metric tons of climate pollution every year.”
Over the past year, environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and Energy Action Coalition, have called on Walmart to take real steps to reduce carbon pollution. In April, Environmental Action and the Green Life, a consumer protection group, named Walmart the worst greenwasher of the year. By supporting clean energy, reducing its carbon pollution and ending support for politicians who oppose climate action, Walmart could help create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and accelerate the transition to a cleaner, more sustainable energy mix.
Last year, ILSR found that since Walmart launched its environmental campaign in 2005, the company’s self-reported greenhouse gas emissions have grown by 14 percent. An ILSR study released last month found that the Walton family – the majority owners of Walmart – are impeding America’s transition to a clean energy future and funding nearly two dozen anti-solar groups that are waging state and national fights to roll back clean energy policies.
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The Institute’s mission is to provide innovative strategies, working models and timely information to support environmentally sound and equitable community development. To this end, ILSR works with citizens, activists, policymakers and entrepreneurs to design systems, policies and enterprises that meet local or regional needs; to maximize human, material, natural and financial resources; and to ensure that the benefits of these systems and resources accrue to all local citizens.