Last week’s punishment/settlement between the Department of Justice and Duke Energy over bird deaths caused by its wind turbines gives evidence that the Obama administration needed a scapegoat, to defuse accusations that it applies a double-standard in enforcement of wildlife laws.
The Friday before Thanksgiving both parties announced that Duke would pay $1 million for the deaths of more than 160 birds that are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The incidents occurred over the last four years at two Wyoming sites operated by the utility’s Duke Energy Renewables subsidiary.
Duke 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 Starbroke the news on Friday.
President Obama’s speech last week that re-emphasized his commitment to reduce US carbon dioxide emissions brought dismay to those who appreciate affordable energy, but it sparked a celebration among corporate types who have long sought caps and taxes on CO2.
While it was still more words from the president, which don’t always match his actions, on CO2 limitation he has largely kept his promise to environmentalists. Critics slammed his plan to bypass Congress and to task the Environmental Protection Agency to curb emissions via executive order, but EPA has operated out of bounds since he was inaugurated in 2009 – especially with the “war against coal” that is now universally accepted as true.
Now 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.
A data center in western North Carolina built by Apple, Inc. has now doubled the size of its associated power-generating fuel cell facility, one which in April NLPC reported was a conflict of interest for Apple director and former Vice President Al Gore.
Major technology companies such as Google, Facebook and eBay build these massive server farms to support services such as cloud computing, but in an effort to pacify environmentalists about their enormous energy use, many go to great lengths to make these facilities appear “green.” They’re not.
The departure follows the saga that was the merger between Charlotte, NC-based Duke and Raleigh, NC-based Progress Energy, which was completed in June – sort of. After the North Carolina Utilities Commission delivered the final regulatory approval it needed, Duke’s board ousted former Progress head Bill Johnson. Throughout the nearly 18-month process the pending partner companies proclaimed Johnson would be the CEO of the new combined Duke, with Rogers moving up to chairman, but the directors schemed in the final months of negotiations and then sprung the firing on Johnson only hours after they congratulated him on his new position.
As the North Carolina Utilities Commission tries to make sense of the farcical events that surround its approval of the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy into the largest public electricity company in the nation, the deeper they dig, the dumber Duke looks.
Yesterday the 6-member panel (one seat is unfilled due to political wrangling) heard from former Progress CEO Bill Johnson (pictured). Throughout the 18-month merger process the two companies proclaimed to anyone who cared – including federal regulators, utilities commissions in at least six states, and Wall Street – that Johnson would carry that role over to the combined company, while former Duke CEO James Rogers would elevate to chairman.
Rogers testified before the NCUC on Tuesday, after the directors of the newly combined Duke jettisoned Johnson just hours after the regulatory approval, even though both companies asserted beforehand – ever since the expected deal was announced last year – that he would lead the united company, while Rogers moved up to chairman. Utilities commissioners, former Progress directors who approved the merger, and the public were deceived into believing Johnson would oversee day-to-day operations.
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.