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How will history remember Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers: climate champion or criminal?

by David Pomerantz

May 1, 2013

Jim Rogers has a choice between clean and dirty energy.

Jim Rogers has a choice between clean and dirty energy.

We must move at China speed to combat global warming.

Thats what Jim Rogers, CEO of the largest utility in the country and one of the worlds biggest carbon polluters, Duke Energy, said once upon a time. Now Rogers, who has agreed to retire at the end of 2013, has seven months left to prove he meant it, and determine how history will judge his climate legacy: as a leader who helped start a clean energy revolution, or a polluter who told a nice story about global warming, but never acted to stop it.

Thats why Greenpeace and NC WARN, one of our allies in North Carolina, published an ad today in the Charlotte Observer challenging Rogers to stop talking and start acting, by directing his company to invest in solar energy, wind energy, and energy efficiency throughout the Duke Energy service territory.

We also sent an open letter to Rogers and Dukes Board of Directors explaining the risks to the company if it does not move toward clean energy. Check it out here: www.jimrogerslegacy.com.

Tomorrow in Charlotte, Rogers will speak to Dukes investors at the companys annual shareholder meeting. Hes a talented orator, and hell likely make some more of his trademark comments about how much he cares about climate change and wants to invest in clean energy. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

In North and South Carolina, where Duke sells almost all the electricity, the companys energy mix will include only 2.5 % wind and solar energy 20 years from now if the company sticks to its current plan. Those numbers are woefully low. Other utilities around the country are already achieving 20 % or more clean energy right now, and North Carolina has massive potential for offshore wind and solar energy.

Dukes recent sustainability report did announce some increased investment in renewable energy, but almost all of that investment is planned for outside of the Carolinas, and it’s so modest that Duke admits that its greenhouse emissions will continue to rise. Duke is shipping clean energy jobs west, and sticking the people in its home state with the pollution and soaring power bills.

The time could not be more urgent for Rogers to stop talking and start acting. The planet is careening toward tipping points, and if companies like Duke dont dramatically reduce their carbon pollution soon, we will have more extreme weather like Hurricane Sandy and the drought that is still plaguing much of the Midwest. Thats certainly true in the Carolinas, where most of Dukes customers live: North Carolina is at risk for more and stronger hurricanes, more thunderstorms, and more high heat days if global warming continues unabated.

Thankfully, people are standing up to force Rogers and Duke to do the right thing, and its not just Greenpeace: The growing wave of activism against Dukes rate hikes for dirty energy will be on display at the shareholder meeting tomorrow, where hundreds of activists from groups ranging from Sierra Club to the AARP will show up to ask Duke for cleaner, cheaper energy that will help their health, their pocketbooks, and the climate.

Join them and send your own message to Rogers and Duke Energy by submitting a photo here.

David Pomerantz

By David Pomerantz

David Pomerantz is a former Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace USA, based in San Francisco. He helps lead Greenpeace's campaign for an economy powered by 100% renewable energy.

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