Duke Energy’s ‘Clean Coal’ Power Plant Off to Bad Start

Duke EdwardsportDuke Energy’s “green” initiative to gasify coal for allegedly “cleaner” burning at its Edwardsport, Ind. power plant has already been vilified for cronyism, corruption, conflicts of interest, cost overruns, delays, waste, and mismanagement, but at least it became operational in June.

For six days.

The so-called “clean coal” project that was intended to have a carbon dioxide capture-and-storage component suffered breakdowns that left it inoperative on June 13, almost a week after Duke’s formal announcement that Edwardsport was on line, and only a day after the nation’s largest utility showed media members around the plant. The Indianapolis Star broke the news on Friday.

Eyebrows furrowed and heads shook not simply over the unexpected early stoppage, but given the questionable behavior surrounding the plant by previous CEO James Rogers and other Duke executives, the timing of the announcement followed by the quick shutdown only raised more …

Tesla CEO Elon Musk Fights Perceptions as Stock Drops

Elon MuskTaxpayer-supported Tesla, recipient of a $465 million stimulus loan guarantee to produce yet another electric toy car (the Model S) for rich people, reported its 4th quarter earnings last week. The word from billionaire CEO Elon Musk (Flickr photo: Jurvetson) was, “we’ll do better next quarter – promise.”

That’s a paraphrase, but nonetheless Tesla’s announcement fell short of most Wall Street analysts’ expectations. The company lost $90 million for the quarter as it ramped up production to fill pre-orders, paying workers to put in an average of 68 hours per week in December. On Thursday the company suffered the biggest one-day drop in its stock price – tumbling nearly 10 percent – in more than a year. Shares fell to $35.16 before recovering slightly on Friday, but were at $34.38 for Tuesday morning’s opening.

Unlike its counterpart Fisker, Musk and Tesla have enjoyed comparatively better …

Will Departing Duke CEO Rogers Officially Join the Obama Team?

Jim Rogers and windmill photoNow that he’s been forced out as chairman and CEO of Duke Energy, James Rogers is apparently looking for something else to do, and may now be more receptive to the idea of becoming President Obama’s next Secretary of Energy.

The new speculation, primarily from the Charlotte Business Journal, which is based in Duke’s home city, arose following an interview that Rogers did with Bloomberg News while at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Whereas Rogers used to routinely dismiss suggestions that he might be up for a cabinet post, when asked this time by Bloomberg reporter Tom Keene what he would bring to the job if the president asked him to serve, he was unhesitant.

“What I would bring is someone that’s been in the industry a long time and understands the importance of getting the balance right between cheap, affordable energy and meeting …

Big Obama Donor ‘Investigated’ DOE Loan Program

Herbert Allison

When is a government watchdog not really a watchdog?

When he rolls over and lays at the feet of his master rather than sink his teeth into a program that he’s been tasked to guard.

Such appears to be the (unsurprising) case with Herbert Allison, Jr. (pictured), a former Wall Street executive (Merrill Lynch and TIAA-CREF) until he was appointed president and CEO of Fannie Mae in 2008, after it was put into conservatorship. Subsequently President Obama named (and the Senate confirmed) him as overseer of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the $700 billion asset acquisition fund that bailed out Wall Street financial institutions. He served in that role for about 15 months, until September 2010.

But it’s Allison’s role as a special investigator of the Department of Energy’s stimulus-funded loan program that is sparking curiosity, as explained in an Associated Press story published yesterday. Not …

Jim Rogers’s Power Grab Underscores Politicization of Duke Energy

Jim Rogers and windmill photoAfter a lengthy process that overcame a demanding review at the North Carolina Utilities Commission and two rejections by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Duke Energy won approval to merge with the Tar Heel State’s other major investor-owned utility, Progress Energy.

Then Duke’s board immediately pulled a fast one and fired the man they said all along would be the joint entity’s CEO, Bill Johnson, who would have continued from the same role he had with Progress. Instead leading the new combined company will be Duke’s current CEO, James Rogers. Throughout the merger approval process everyone understood he would abdicate that role to Johnson while remaining as company chairman.

The NCUC and state attorney general, Roy Cooper, were shocked by the move and are not pleased. Even less happy are many (now) former directors for Progress, who told the media last week that they never …

Taxpayers Subsidize Forbes ‘Green’ Billionaires’ Schemes

Vinod Khosla

This story has been updated below.

The three top U.S. tycoons on Forbes’s “Green” billionaires list have received billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for their clean technology companies, after they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for political campaigns and lobbying.

Two of the moguls, Elon Musk and Vinod Khosla (in photo), are technology pioneers based in California with net worths of $2 billion and $1.3 billion, respectively. The third, Christy Walton, is the widow of the late John Walton who was an heir to the Walmart fortune. Forbes says she is “the world’s richest woman” is worth $24.8 billion.

Significant percentages of Musk’s and Khosla’s value are derived from “eco-friendly” holdings. Musk’s main green investments are in Tesla Motors, an electric automaker, and SolarCity. Among Khosla’s clean-tech assets are KiOR and Gevo, both biofuels companies, and Calera Corporation, a company that uses captured carbon …

Duke Power Plant Boondoggle to Cost Customers Plenty

white Coke can

A $3.3 billion coal gasification and carbon dioxide capture power plant owned by Duke Energy, built in order to pacify concerns over the fake global warming scare, will increase rates for its Indiana customers by 14.5 percent the next two years.

The Indianapolis Star reported last week that ratepayers will cover nearly $2.6 billion of the plant’s costs, as the result of a deal between the utility, its industrial customers, and Indiana’s government advocate for electricity consumers. Duke’s shareholders will pay for the remainder of the facility, built in Edwardsport, Ind. Between the Charlotte-based utility and its main contractors on the plant – General Electric and Bechtel – construction costs soared from an estimated $1.985 billion in 2006 to $3.3 billion. Carbon dioxide capture and storage, like much renewable energy, is a technology that has not proven viable on a scale that would meet the electricity demands of …

Sens. Grassley, Thune Want Answers on Fisker Loan

A123 logo

Why are taxpayers forced to underwrite a loan for the producer of a $107,000 toy vehicle for the wealthy, the majority of which is assembled at a European auto plant?

Two weeks ago Republican Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa and John Thune of South Dakota asked Energy Secretary Steven Chu those and some other pointed questions about his department’s decisions, in granting a $529 million taxpayer loan guarantee to Fisker Automotive, a luxury electric car manufacturer.

The politically connected automaker has stumbled a number of times in delivering its six-figure Karma to market, with two recalls related to battery defects, an investigation of its top venture capital raisers, and layoffs of dozens of “green jobs” that had been bragged about by the Obama administration.

The senators questioned the wisdom of extending the loan – which has now been suspended after issuance of $193 million because of Fisker’s troubles – …

Obama-Supporting Law Firm Advised on Failed Fisker Loan

A123 logo

An international law firm, which gave substantial political donations to President Obama and fellow Democrats over the last three campaign cycles, received its own significant stimulus award to advise on a controversial Department of Energy loan transaction with a struggling electric vehicle manufacturer.

The firm, Debevoise & Plimpton LLC, received $1,842,180 in Recovery Act funds to provide legal advice, conduct due diligence, and review documents for two loans from DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. One $529 million loan award was to Fisker Automotive to develop and produce two lines of electric vehicles, with plans to create 2,000 new jobs at a renovated General Motors plant in Delaware. After receiving $193 million under that loan, DOE halted payments to Fisker in May 2011 after it failed to reach milestones set out in the agreement. Work on renovations to the Delaware plant was suspended, and the company …

Democratic National Committee Taps Crony Corporations

Obama InvescoAs Democrats struggle to raise funds to coronate President Obama as nominee in Charlotte, N.C. this September, the role of two crony corporations increases daily.

Bloomberg reported yesterday that the president’s re-election organization will consider moving his acceptance speech at the Democrat National Convention to Bank of America Stadium.

Three unidentified Democrats “involved in the fundraising” told the news service the goal would be to sell more skyboxes to wealthy donors, apparently because fewer are available at Time Warner Cable Arena where the convention is presently scheduled.

“The almost 74,000-seat home of the Carolina Panthers professional football team would also have room for the convention to sell more floor passes close to the stage,” Bloomberg reported. “Planners for the event are struggling to meet a $36.6 million fundraising goal, according to the Democrats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter.”

Back in …