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The drive to a word wide green economic recovery

By James E. Rogers 

Duke Energy provides electric power to more than 11 million people in five states. We are the third largest electric power holding company in the U.S., based on kilowatt-hour sales.

Our diversified generation portfolio mirrors the supply mix in the U.S. as a whole with a blend of coal, nuclear, natural gas, and hydropower. We also have sizeable investments in renewables, notably wind, where we have more than 500 megawatts in operation and another 5,000 megawatts under development. We are also involved in a joint venture constructing ten 50-megawatt biomass facilities over the next five years.

I recognize that we face two simultaneous and urgent crises: global climate change and a deep financial downturn. There are great similarities between them. No one nation, or entity, can solve either problem. It will take policy leaders and business to solve both. 

In addition, there is a great opportunity for us in both crises: if we structure our approach to climate change effectively, addressing the global climate crisis can provide one pathway toward helping address the global financial crisis.

I might add that my company and my customers are at ground zero for both the environmental and economic storms we face. Duke Energy is the third largest consumer of coal in the U.S., and we emit around 100 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. The U.S. Midwest has been particularly hard hit by this recession, with some counties in Indiana having the highest nationwide unemployment rates.

It is exactly because of these issues that we have to be very careful about how we make the transition to a "decarbonized" economy. It is not going to be free, easy, or quick. But it must be fair, and it must be now.

There are two reasons why action now is important. By putting a cap on emissions and a price on carbon, it will allow our country to get the best bang for the buck from the green portions of the stimulus. This linkage will create a roadmap that will allow capital-intensive industries, like my own, to start planning for future investments and the creation of 21st century jobs, such as engineers and technicians. The building of new transmission, renewable, and nuclear energy cannot be done overnight, but it can be completed over the next 10 years. It is confidence in this road map that will help us rebound from this recession. 

Action now is important, because right now, the United States lags behind its global competitors in the race to fuel the clean energy future. According to the research firm New Energy Finance, the value of low-carbon energy markets worldwide is expected to reach $450 billion annually by 2012 and then rise to $600 billion annually in 2020. Without a U.S. carbon program, we will not be participating in this lucrative market. 

If you look today at China, you will find that they are investing $221 billion over the next two years in clean energy. That is double the U.S. investment in everything from wind to solar to advanced batteries. 

I understand the arguments against action on energy and climate with concerns focused on the economy. However, the reality is we can't afford not to act if we hope to compete and lead. The right comprehensive energy and carbon legislation can provide not only the certainty and rules of the road by which we can plan, build, and compete, it will also protect consumers and help us advance efficiency and alternative technology efforts, all while cleaning up the environment.

The sooner Congress provides a clear set of rules, the sooner investments can be made. I strongly believe that one of the most effective approaches to solving the climate issue will be to develop a series of public and private partnerships with countries around the globe. Through domestic action and international leadership and cooperation, we can drive a worldwide green economic recovery. 

We stand ready to work with both the Administration and Congress to get it done. 


For the Record is an edited excerpt of the testimony of James E. Rogers, Chairman, President, and CEO, Duke Energy Corporation, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in May 2009.


September/October 2009