Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The More Things Stay the Same, the Worse the Rhetoric

by Ken Houghton

The notable thing about the opening of this New York Times article on Global Warning, "The Cost of an Overheated Planet," is that the opening looks very familiar:
The iconic culprit in global warming is the coal-fired power plant. It burns the dirtiest, most carbon-laden of fuels, and its smokestacks belch millions of tons of carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas.

So it is something of a surprise that James E. Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy, a coal-burning utility in the Midwest and the Southeast, has emerged as an unexpected advocate of federal regulation that would for the first time impose a cost for emitting carbon dioxide. But he has his reasons.

“Climate change is real, and we clearly believe we are on a route to mandatory controls on carbon dioxide,” Mr. Rogers said. “And we need to start now because the longer we wait, the more difficult and expensive this is going to be.”

Yes, the Energy Executive With a (money-run) Conscience who wants to do something now, before the costs are too high.

But we've seen Mr. Rogers's Neighborhood before, when he ran Cinergy, and Fortune carried his water in 2002 with "Stop Me Before I Pollute Again":
Jim Rogers is a 54-year-old Kentuckian with a friendly grin, a slow drawl, and a quirky way of introducing himself. It goes something like this: Hi, I'm Jim Rogers. I'm the CEO of Cinergy, an electric and gas supplier. I burn 30 million tons of coal a year, and I'm responsible for 1% of the world's man-made carbon dioxide. Now what was it you wanted to talk about?

Rogers has always been a maverick. He's been reaching out to green groups for more than a decade. Since 1998 he has used his position at the Edison Electric Institute, a power-company trade association, to argue that his fellow CEOs should begin talking about the once taboo subject of CO2. And--in a move that burns up many within his industry--he favors compromise with environmentalists on legislation that would require power companies to spend billions of dollars to sharply reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants.

There are two things that have happened in the interim: Duke Energy acquired Cinergy (now Duke Energy Ohio), and the Republican Congress has done nothing that Mr. Rogers asked for, even after their base got involved.
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