Duke Energy CEO does doublespeak on CCS

by Kate Rooth

May 5, 2009

60 minutes recently ran an interview with Duke Energy CEO, Jim Rogers talking about the future of our climate and coal’s role in that debate. Jim Rogers has been one of the key spokespeople for the future of coal – but has also been noted for sending conflicting messages.

While the coal industry clings to the hope of carbon capture and storage, CCS, as a lifeline to continue the construction of new coal plants, it turns out they have made very little investment in it to date.

When asked by 60 Mintues coorespondent Scott Pelley how much Duke Energy has invested in carbon sequestration technology so far, Rogers said, “We have not invested any dollars in the technology, per say. We have spent a lot of time and money reviewing and analyzing the various technologies.”

The news coorespondents response to Rogers was spot on:

“But come on, you admit to being the third largest carbon producer in the United States. You tell me that carbon sequestration is the future, because we can’t afford to live without coal. But then you tell me you haven’t invested any money in carbon sequestration.”

And Rogers response:

“While we haven’t spent the money on sequestration technology we spent the time and the energy and we’re going to co-invest with the government when this technology evolves.”

Dan Weiss of the Center for American Progress looked into this and reported that:

” Duke Energy is not alone. It is a member of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricitya front group of 48 big coal, utility, and other companieswhich has already spent gobs of money on advertising, but invested little in the development of CCS technology. Like Duke, ACCCEs other member companies are much more committed to the idea of clean coal than investing to make it a realityas their research budgets demonstrate. An analysis of their investments found that they spent less than two cents in research on clean coal for every $1 of profit. And even though new legislation would fund technology to make clean coal a reality, ACCCE has yet to show any support for it.”

Weiss’ analysis of current CCS projects does list Duke as a participant in three CCS research projects, however Rogers comments would lead us to believe that this participation is minimal.

The legislation referenced by Wiess is the “America Clean Energy and Security Act” sponsored by Reps Henry Waxman Ed Markey which offers huge subsidies to CCS research and development. Sounds to me like Rogers and ACCCE are waiting on the government to invest taxpayer dollars before they will shell out any green.

So what are Duke and other ACCCE members willing to spend their money on? ACCCE has a communications budget for 2009 of $40 million. Right, and lets not forget the $9.9 million spent last year on lobbyists. Oh- and the combined $15.6 million spent by ACCCE member firms to federal campaigns.

So the question that remains unanswered is, if Jim Rogers won’t invest in CCS why should the US taxpayers?

View the 60 Minutes interview

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