The merger hearings for Duke Energy and Progress Energy before the North Carolina Utilities Commission were supposed to be the last major hurdle for the deal to be approved, but now the concerns of a small coastal city and a federal government regulatory agency have cast last-minute doubts. It turns out the demands by environmental groups for Duke to pay more money into weatherization boondoggles were minor irritants compared to the threat posed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
As The News & Observer of Raleigh reported last week, FERC informed the North Carolina-based utilities that in order to win its approval, extensive changes need to be made to the deal, since the proposed plan would “have an adverse effect on competition” in the Southeast, with the agency characterizing the deal’s problems as “systematic” and “severe.”
Duke and Progress officials made the FERC decision sound like it was no biggy, … Read More ➡
A lot has been said about the ties of George Kaiser, a campaign contribution bundler for President Obama’s 2008 campaign, to the Solyndra bankruptcy scandal that likely has cost taxpayers $535 million thanks to a Department of Energy loan guarantee. Kaiser’s investment firm, Argonaut Venture Capital, held over 35 percent of the failed solar company’s stock – more than anyone else.
But next in line (with 11 percent) behind Argonaut in the Solyndra stakes is Madrone Capital Partners, which is managed by a trio whom the political Left has attempted to tie to support for Republicans. Of course, “they did it too” is not a legitimate defense, but in this case, it’s not a portrayal of the entire picture either.
Madrone is tied to the Walton family – of Walmart fame – and is co-managed by an in-law, Gregory Penner, who also serves as a Walmart director. He is the … Read More ➡
If it wasn’t already obvious, then a report in Friday’s Raleigh News & Observer about the merger hearings between Duke Energy and Progress Energy into the nation’s largest utility makes it clear: That Duke’s strategy is continued growth into “a political juggernaut.”
That’s what came out of the final day of testimony about the deal before the North Carolina Utilities Commission, which appears to be the final major hurdle for the merger’s approval. The N&O cited “hints” by company executives about “further acquisitions down the road,” in which Duke would wield even more power than they do now.
Perhaps at some point the U.S. Justice Department will be required to approve Duke’s acquisitions to examine possible monopoly interests (which in reality, investor-owned utilities already enjoy). After this merger’s approval, in fact, Duke will be the service provider for almost the entire state of North Carolina – the exception being … Read More ➡
Professional subsidy-sucking General Motors, which seems content to marinate in its taxpayer “investment” indefinitely, is getting ambitious. No, not in the sense of paying back the $50 billion U.S. government bailout, or in producing vehicles people actually want to buy, but instead in finding other governments to subsidize its products.
Not surprisingly the new partner – in a 50-50 joint venture with the state-run auto industry – is China. And also unsurprisingly, General Electric will join GM in a related partnership in the communist nation.
And you probably already guessed the agreements surround the development and sales of electric vehicles. But GM took great pains to emphasize that it does not have an ambitious plan in the Peoples’ Republic for the Chevy Volt – whose sales have been a dud in the U.S. – because it is not allowed to take advantage of generous Chinese government subsidies… Read More ➡
It seemed the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy into the nation’s largest (by several measures) utility would sail through by the end of this year, but several activists in North Carolina have intervened at the last minute. The moves by environmental groups to extract funds for their pet projects out of the deal would make shakedown artists proud. Among the organizations – who have myriad methods of wringing dollars from taxpayers through lawsuits and corporate campaign-type pressure tactics – are Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, and Southern Environmental Law Center.
Armed with dozens of millions of dollars each, the litigation-loving Greenies made the laughable assertion – with help of friendly consultant Richard Hahn of La Capra Associates – that the new Duke Energy would produce more air pollution after the merger. It’s as if eco-group suck-up James Rogers, the CEO of Duke Energy, never had anything to … Read More ➡
Recently NLPC reported that Walmart’s top “sustainability” adviser, who provided significant help in getting the company’s “Green” credibility with environmentalist groups in gear, was Jib Ellison – a former wilderness expeditionist and river guide, and author of a guide on whitewater rafting. The story of his relationship with Walmart, which began with the introduction of Ellison by Rob Walton (son of founder Sam) to former company CEO Lee Scott, is documented in the new book Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Walmart’s Green Revolution by Edward Humes.
The passion for environmental concerns (which has also included foolish corporate support for cap-and-trade policies) has carried over to the philanthropic initiatives of Sam’s descendants, with the Walton Family Foundation pouring $71.8 million into oceans and river systems “conservation.” Walton heirs, including Rob, make up the entirety of the foundation’s board. A major group of sport fishermen are not … Read More ➡
U.S. Climate Action Partnership members General Electric and utilities Duke Energy and Exelon Corporation are addicted to the politics of gaming environmental regulatory policy so they can make millions off mandates and subsidies, often at the expense to taxpayers and their own customers.
The latest example was the three companies’ purchase of tables at the second annual Teddy Roosevelt Dinner, hosted by Republicans for Environmental Protection in Washington. This year GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who as Utah governor a couple of years ago led the charge to bring his state into the Western Climate Initiative regional cap-and-trade agreement, keynoted the dinner. Looks like the companies have a hard time giving up on political losers, considering that Huntsman has only 39 percent name recognition and has 2 percent support among Republican voters, leading Gallup pollster Frank Newport to identify him as the likely next Tim Pawlenty.
REP honored Exelon … Read More ➡
It’s (once again) the law of unintended consequences for Green groups: In order to fulfill a 2007 state mandate that they derive 12.5 percent of electricity from so-called “renewable” sources, a North Carolina appeals court has ruled that Duke Energy – which will soon be more or less the only investor-owned utility in the Tar Heel state – may burn whole trees to comply with the regulation.
Last year Duke sought permission from the North Carolina Utilities Commission to classify two of its coal-fired power plants as renewable facilities, because the company wants to burn a combination of wood chips and coal at the plants. NCUC determined the renewables statute allowed that “wood derived from whole trees in primary harvest is a ‘biomass resource’ and thus a ‘renewable energy resource,’” and therefore approved Duke’s application. Environmental Defense Fund and the NC Sustainable Energy Association – with Southern Environmental Law Center … Read More ➡
Duke Energy’s business approach has been to reap favors, tax breaks and advantages by virtue of its cozy relationship with government, with benefits that have redounded to them in the form of subsidies, tax shelters, government grants and mandates for wind farms (despite its failure to provide energy on a broad scale, even though it has been around forever) and other unproven cockamamie ideas.
But one of those schemes has got Duke in big trouble. In May NLPC reported how its coal gasification plant under construction in Edwardsport, Ind., suffered approximately $1 billion in cost overruns and led to Duke’s pursuit of a (too-)friendly rate recovery deal, as well as the recruitment of the top lawyer at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. At the same time that lawyer, Scott Storms, took part in cases Duke had before IURC, and his behavior drew fines and punishment from the Indiana … Read More ➡
Duke Energy, along with General Electric and General Motors, are three of the major companies that are often criticized for their rent-seeking ways by free-market minded people, because their corporate earnings focus seems to depend more on subsidies and tax breaks from government rather than sales of their products. That all three support cap-and-trade policies (although it appears GM has left the US Climate Action Partnership) – as long as the gaming of the credit-trading system falls in their favor – is one example of this.
Duke’s, and its CEO Jim Rogers’s, appetites for government giveaways seem to be particularly insatiable among investor-owned utilities. The company is not shy about pursuing unproven, costly technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, just so long as taxpayers foot a lot of the bill.
For a few years now, Duke has been on what looks like a wind and solar … Read More ➡