Bank of America plans $50-billion investment to go green

The Charlotte ObserverJune 12, 2012 

Bank of America Corp. announced Monday a commitment to invest $50 billion in green energy and other environmental projects over the next 10 years, after achieving a similar goal announced in 2007 years ahead of schedule.

The Charlotte bank joins a number of other large banks in making similar commitments amid complaints that the bank finances coal extraction and mountaintop removal.

“Environmental business delivers value to our clients, return for our shareholders, and helps strengthen the economy,” said CEO Brian Moynihan said in a statement. “We met our prior goal in about half the time we set for ourselves, so more than doubling our target is ambitious but achievable.”

The bank said it will focus on financing energy efficiency in buildings, renewable energy infrastructure, lower-carbon transportation, and water purification and recycling.

Bank of America says it will be able to grow this business as governments, companies and individuals place more emphasis on green initiatives.

Monday’s announcement builds on a $20 billion commitment made in 2007. The bank says it has completed nearly $18 billion so far, nearly half of which came through energy efficiency financing.

In its own company, Bank of America has set a goal of reducing energy, paper and water use as well as diverting more waste from landfills, the bank also said Monday.

As the bank seeks to increase its financing of green initiatives, it will face competition from other banks that are doing the same thing.

Wells Fargo & Co. has already announced a $30 billion green energy commitment by 2020, with another $100 million in grants and volunteer activity. JPMorgan Chase & Co. also touts that it has put $6.7 billion in renewable energy projects since 2003.

These investments have done little to placate activists who target Bank of America’s financing of projects for the coal industry.

Moynihan was repeatedly questioned about its coal investments at the bank’s annual shareholder meeting last month, and groups like the Rainforest Action Network have repeatedly protested at the bank’s uptown headquarters in recent months.

The bank has defended its coal investments, pointing out that coal still makes up a large proportion of the country’s energy use.

But activists groups use that fact to downplay Bank of America’s announcement Monday.

“Bank of America cannot have its cake and eat it too. We cannot applaud its climate and renewable energy commitments while the bank is also playing a leading role in financing the coal industry,” said Amanda Starbuck, director of the Rainforest Action Network’s energy and finance program, in a statement.

“Bank of America’s commitment to renewable energy is a step in the right direction, however, the bank is simultaneously taking two steps back by continuing to underwrite the coal industry.”

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