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Editorial: Duke’s greenback revolution

by YES! Weekly staff

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers has a plan to end global warming in two easy steps. One:Give Rogers your money. Two: Lower your expectations. That’s thenutshell description of Duke’s Save-A-Watt program, an energyefficiency plan so bloated, useless and misguided that it’s cre ated anarmy of opponents about as diverse as political bedfellows get. Inaddition to the usual suspects — the Southern Environmental Law Center,the North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network (NC WARN) —the plan has drawn criticism from the likes of Wal-Mart and theconservative John Locke Foundation. What’s their beef withSave-A-Watt? Well, for starters, the program would be paid for out ofthe pockets of Duke Energy customers, all of whom would fork out anannual $15 efficiency surcharge to the coal burning corporate behemoth.Ratepayers who opt in to Save-A-Watt would receive incentives toconduct energy audits, replace old appliances and improve theinsulation of their homes. All of those are good things.Unfortunately, the hundreds of thou sands of North Carolinians livingnear the poverty line can’t even consider making those kinds ofinvestments — even with incentives. But they’ll still have to pay forthem, effectively subsidizing a statewide energy ef ficiency programfor middle- and upper-income customers. Their money would alsofund the most ridiculously lucrative efficiency program in the country.Energy expert Richard Spellman said Duke could earn profits of up to 61percent on Save-A-Watt. Most programs boast profits of about 7 percent,he added. So Duke gets piles of money. What do consumers get?A paltry — piddling, even — .15 percent reduction in energy use for thefirst three years. Other utilities have been able to cut consumption byas much as 1 percent a year. The plan is so bad the usually sycophanticutilities commission, stocked as it is with retired energy chiefs andcorporate lobbyists, can’t even hold its own brown nose and approve.During the first round of hearings, the public staff called Spellmanand two other experts to the stand who roundly criticized the companyfor the plan’s fiscal excesses and modest environmental returns. Forhis part, Rogers doesn’t understand what everyone’s so upset about. Infact, a company spokesman said in the Raleigh News & Observer thatthe astronomical profit margins are actually the plan’s biggest selling point. After all, the only way other utilities will see the logicof invest ing in efficiency is if you replace all that preserving theplanet hooey with visions of Scrooge McDuck-style slaloms down MoneyMountain. And Money Mountain won’t build itself. It’ll takegeniuses like Rog ers with the vision to bilk clueless customerswilling to pay $18.23 for a compact fluorescent bulb that costs $1.65at Wal-Mart. This is the same Rogers who has gotten mad propsin national publi cations for his green initiatives. The New York TimesMagazine expended several thousand words congratulating Rogers for hiswillingness to sit at the same table as environmentalists, his penchantfor brainstorming and his ability to enunciate the words “cap andtrade.” The kind of green Rogers is associated with here inNorth Carolina isn’t the same kind of green the Times is talking about.Jim Warren of NC WARN wonders whether Save-A-Watt is a joke or sabotage— an effort to render energy efficiency so laughable the state nolonger considers it viable. He would argue that efficiency isthe state’s best weapon against air pollution and global warming. It’sso important, in fact, that it shouldn’t be put in the care of acompany that profits from selling energy, not sav ing it. Warren has anenergy efficiency plan too. It starts with taking it seri ously. YES!Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion inour publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be avital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed representa consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through muchdeliberation and consideration.

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