It’s difficult to tell, because the legacy of Enron is so vast and there is still so much we don’t know. Enron is known primarily for its business and ethical misconduct, involving the artificial inflation of earnings, shell games with accountants and regulators, and downright criminal conduct by its founders and chief corporate officers. What’s often lost in the shuffle is that Enron began its life as an energy company, dealing primarily in natural gas, and eventually acquiring utility companies all over the United States and the world. These companies all had differing records of environmental stewardship, some good, some bad. For example, some of the companies Enron owned at one time were wind farms, making some of the earliest commercial gains in renewable technology. Enron was not a long-lived company, and many of the power plants and other facilities it bought were not owned by it for very long, making it difficult to evaluate the environmental impact of changes that may (or may not) have been made while Enron owned them. Enron’s financial misdeeds were a major cause of the “rolling blackouts” in California in 2001, which had a number of indirect effects, such as increased generation from other sources, increased power loads through existing lines and other effects. Since its bankruptcy and collapse in 2001/02, Enron has been accused of funding slanted research designed to inject doubt into theories about climate change; whether this is in fact true is unclear. So much about Enron remains opaque, and direct evaluation of its environmental record is correspondingly difficult.
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