NOTE TO EDITORS Contact: Jim Warren
January 16, 2008 919-416-5077
Statewide ad campaign targets Duke CEO’s contradictions
Politicians, media are failing their duty to confront “Global Warming Machine”
Statement from Jim Warren, NC WARN Executive Director:
Because public officials and the news media have left unchallenged key contradictions regarding Duke Energy’s proposal to build a massive coal-fired power plant despite a rapidly accelerating climate crisis, NC WARN is placing full-page newspaper ads calling on North Carolinians to press CEO Jim Rogers to walk his talk by cancelling the Cliffside project and turning to efficient, clean energy.
The ads, which began today in a dozen papers and on the internet, also urge the news media, Governor Mike Easley and other elected officials to stand up to Duke Energy’s influence machine. The Easley administration has indicated it will soon grant the go-ahead for the plant despite ongoing lawsuits by the federal EPA and state-based nonprofits; it is clear that the state has allowed Duke to cut various regulatory corners in its bid for the $2.4 billion project.
For more than a year, Rogers has been given kid-gloves treatment by the state and national media. Dozens of articles have fallen for Duke’s PR strategy of painting Rogers as a visionary corporate leader oozing concern about global warming – calling for national carbon regulation – and voicing support for energy efficiency.
Very few, however, have contrasted that position with Rogers’ actions: He is trying to build an 800 megawatt power plant with no means to capture CO2. Moreover, the CEO is lobbying for Cliffside to be exempted from the very carbon regulation he’s promoting nationally. A highly publicized but long-delayed energy efficiency program appears designed for Rogers to profit exorbitantly from modest efficiency efforts while providing PR cover to build large coal and nuclear plants.
Despite the enormous ramifications for this state, there have been no comprehensive stories laying out the Cliffside project, the alternatives proving themselves in the marketplace, and the economic and environmental risks of trying to build power plants during a swelling climate emergency and economic decline. Duke Energy fully lost its argument for Cliffside in January 2007, but with no media present to hold the NC Utilities Commission accountable, that body approved one of two units sought by Duke.
I was astounded that most state media took a pass when the world’s top climate expert, Dr. James Hansen came to Charlotte and the Triangle in November to speak against the proposed Cliffside plant.
It is disappointing that the news media has largely abdicated its proud role as watchdog on this most important statewide issue. Although there have been a number of good reports and editorials – and talented journalists eager to tell this story – few articles have mentioned, much less corrected, the Duke Energy PR distortions. In particular, there has been little challenge to Duke’s bogus claim that the new plant would be cleaner because four existing (tiny, seldom-used) coal furnaces would be retired.
Meanwhile, three Lt. Governor candidates have taken positions against the plant. But no gubernatorial candidate has touched the highly charged issue yet. One newly announced candidate has been on the Duke Energy payroll for 29 years, which creates a conflict of interest involving the Cliffside issue.
As another prominent scientist noted last month, “the Arctic is screaming.” Our ad emphasizes that North Carolina must do its part – and be a model for developing countries, not an excuse for them to repeat tragic US mistakes that created the climate crisis. Greenhouse gas emissions from the new Cliffside plant alone would overwhelm almost any projected statewide programs to reduce the state’s carbon footprint.
If this project proceeds, seems certain that North Carolina will become the key national battleground over coal and climate change. Dozens of other coal plants are being cancelled in states where corporate executives and public officials indeed understand the potential for climate catastrophe.
All North Carolina environmental groups working on climate change and energy oppose Cliffside.
It seems tragic that nonprofits must buy news space to correct the record and elucidate the public on vitally important issues. It’s not a real democracy if the news media fails to keep the public informed.
NC WARN is a grassroots non-profit using science and activism to tackle climate change and reduce hazards to public health and the environment from nuclear power and other polluting electricity production, and working for a transition to safe, economical energy in North Carolina.