Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Duke Energy CEO on Rachel Maddow

I watched the segment last night with Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers on the Rachel Maddow Show. Interesting dude.

Interesting partially because he says he's in favor of "building a bridge" to sustainable energy and of zeroing out our dependence on fossil fuel and carbon emissions (Duke Energy, he himself admits, is the third-largest emitter of carbon particulates in the country, because Duke Energy mainly burns high-carbon coal). He says that he's in favor of the so-called "cap and trade" scheme of making polluters pay for permits to burn fossil fuel ... just not in favor of the up-front permitting proposed by the Obama administration. He warns that if he and Duke Energy has to pay for a permit to pollute, he'll have to pass along that cost to his customers.

Why not, instead, take a hit to your (enormous) profits, Maddow asked, since all the rest of us have been paying all along for your (also enormous) pollution? (And isn't it amazing that such a reasonable question can sound so radical?) Rogers essentially ducked the question.

Maddow was forward in her questioning precisely because Rogers has said he wants to wean the country off fossil fuels, and the rest of his recent biography might suggest a certain progressive streak to his capitalism: he's a self-professed "life-long" Democrat and gave some bucks to the Obama campaign.

So Rogers wants some of the same progressive goals that Obama wants. But Rogers doesn't want to pay for them. Smaller profit margin? Unthinkable!

Also unthinkable is limiting his ability to buy cheap strip-mined coal from Appalachia, like a bill currently being considered in the N.C. General Assembly would do. For all his public relations spin about "creation care," Mr. Rogers will do what he has to do to keep that cheap coal moving, harvested only by the wholesale destruction of entire mountains, and that would include leaning (heavily, and as a "fellow Democrat") on the Democratic members of the N.C. General Assembly.

That, and passing along the costs of pollution TWICE to his customers, rather than see any small dent in his massive profits.

So much for "building a bridge" to a sustainable energy future.

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