Sunday, June 29, 2008

I trust this coal man.

My parents moved to North Carolina a few years ago. They had a home built in a new subdivision just north of Charlotte. The road to their house passes a giant Duke Energy coal-fired electricity plant. I'm told it's a part-time plant, only used periodically, a fact that only partly dispells my general uneasiness about it. Ever since that first drive up toward my parents place, I pay attention when Duke Energy is the topic.

The funny thing I've found, counter to my expectations, is that the folks at Duke Energy seem to have their heads distinctly out of the sand and their eyes on the horizon, and they recognize what's likely in the future. That's why when I saw the headine "A Green Coal Baron?" I guessed correctly that Duke Energy was the topic. The baron in question is the company's CEO Jim Rogers.

He's a bit of an anomaly: a coal man who supports the regulation of greenhouse gasses.

Unlike many of his peers, Rogers has been operating like a man with foresight. Maybe the difference is his background:
If Rogers is keen on the idea of cap and trade, it’s because the acid-rain fight was one of his formative experiences as a C.E.O. His first job was a three-year stint as a journalist in Lexington, Ky. — “I was a journalist, so I’m allowed to be a little cynical at times,” he likes to joke — before heading to law school and working as a public advocate in his home state of Kentucky. In 1988, by then 40 years old, he switched sides — the Indiana electrical utility PSI Energy teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, and Rogers was offered the job of turning it around.
What's most interesting for me is Roger's criticism of the Leiberman-Warner climate bill bouncing around Congress. Usually I'd take any energy exec's blathering on the topic with a grain of salt of world-record proportions, but I really get the impression that this guy is seeing the situation more clearly than most:
As the Lieberman-Warner bill took shape last spring and summer, Rogers ought to have been feeling triumphant. Instead, he was increasingly uneasy with what the senators were doing. He was particularly alarmed by the way they planned to hand out co2 allowances.

. . .“Politicians have visions of sugarplums dancing in their head with all the money they can get from auctions,” Rogers told me last month. “It’s all about treating me as the tax collector and the government as the good guy. I’m the evil corporation that’s passing through the carbon tax so Senator Boxer can be the Santa Claus!” If the government was going to collect cash from carbon auctions, Rogers figured, at least it ought to invest that money in green-tech research. “A billion dollars for deficit reduction,” he vented. “A billion dollars! What is [Boxer] smoking? I thought we were solving carbon here.”


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