Duke Energy CEO James E. Rogers said he believed the energy companies could meet a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 a timetable set in a climate change bill by House Democrats. However, he said the federal government would need to take greater control of an industry regulated by individual states to leverage incentives to companies that cut down on electricity use.
"I believe we can set those kinds of goals and reach those goals, but we can't do them without technology," Rogers told an audience at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. "If the Pentagon can say a vision without resources is a hallucination, I'm going to tell you that a carbon policy without technology is a hallucination."
Rogers acknowledged his company relied heavily on coal-fired power plants to produce electricity for its 4 million electric customers in North and South Carolina, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. He said Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy is the third-largest emitter of carbon-dioxide emissions in the U.S. among companies, twelfth among businesses across the globe. Carbon-dioxide emissions are the chief cause of global warming.
Adding more nuclear power plants, making power lines more efficient and somehow storing energy created by renewable sources would help cut emissions, Rogers said. He said simply using more natural gas plants wasn't an answer, calling the energy source the "crack cocaine of our industry."
Rogers said government should reward energy companies with rebates equal to about 90 percent of the cost of energy saved through conservation efforts as well. He said that would encourage energy companies to upgrade aging power lines and electrical grids across the nation.
However, only a "new energy federalism" would be able to set uniform rules for the industry, Roger said. President Barack Obama's proposed budget includes a proposal to begin auctioning off carbon pollution permits in 2012. But Congress has yet to write a bill that would regulate heat-trapping gases and define how the money would be collected.
"I believe the sooner we put a price on carbon, the better," Rogers said. "The sooner we get a cap on emission, the better."