*I am a believer in getting the government to invest in all kinds of renewable energies. If the coal industry wants to try new ideas, then let's support them and stop thwarting their changes at every turn just to get a headline which gets you donations. Remember, alot of jobs depend on this industry.
Is America Ready to Quit Coal?
By MELANIE WARNER
With regulations to address climate change looming, coal power looks increasingly expensive.
Last May, protesters took over James E. Rogers’s front lawn in Charlotte, N.C., unfurling banners declaring “No new coal” and erecting a makeshift “green power plant” — which, they said in a press release, was fueled by “the previously unexplored energy source known as hot air, which has been found in large concentrations” at his home.
And so it goes for Mr. Rogers, the chief executive of Duke Energy. For three years, environmentalists have been battling to stop his company from building a large coal-fired power plant in southwestern North Carolina. They say it will spew six million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, in addition to producing toxic gases and mountains of fly ash similar to the muck that engulfed a Tennessee community recently.
All Mr. Rogers asks, he said in jest, is that protesters let him know when they want to camp out on his lawn. “Maybe next time we can have a little notice and ask them to join us for coffee or tea,” he says.
Mr. Rogers, 61, may adhere to the pro-coal sentiments of many of his peers, but he is hardly a typical captain of the energy industry. Five years ago, he began advocating for climate change legislation at a time when some companies were still saying human activity had nothing to do with global warming. Mr. Rogers, a native of Birmingham, Ala., considers himself an environmentalist and calls his decision to move forward with the new plant, made shortly after he became chief of Duke in April 2006, a difficult one.
The estimated 240 million tons of carbon dioxide that will be generated over the 40-year life of the plant, known as Cliffside, will probably never be captured, when or if such technology becomes viable. Most proposals to capture gas involve injecting it deep into the earth. But in North and South Carolina, where Duke operates, the underground rock is too porous to contain any gas.
“There’s always been a tension between affordability and clean,” Mr. Rogers said in mid-January, sipping a cappuccino on his way to a meeting in Washington with Carol M. Browner, the White House coordinator of energy and climate policy. “Ultimately we need to be able to meet the energy needs of our customers. That’s my biggest obligation.”
Fulfilling that responsibility through renewable energy wasn’t an option, he said. Duke, which gets 71 percent of its electricity from coal, has only recently delved into solar energy, promising to buy the entire output of a large solar farm in North Carolina and it is seeking final approval to put solar panels on rooftops at hundreds of customer sites. Its first purchase from a wind farm has started flowing to customers in Indiana. All that combined, though, will give Duke only 124 megawatts of energy, compared with 800 planned from Cliffside.
Hoping to mitigate some of the environmental impact of Cliffside, Mr. Rogers has promised to shut down more than an equal amount of older, more polluting power plants by 2018.