BY John Murawski
RALEIGH — Global warming theorists have been stinging from allegations of shaky science in recent months, but warming advocates in this state have not cooled their ardor.
N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, a Durham group that opposes nuclear power and coal-burning power plants, warned Monday that the planet could become uninhabitable for humans if we don’t put a lid on greenhouse gas emissions.
NC WARN’s statement is an opening salvo for hearings today before the N.C. Utilities Commission on energy demand projections by the state’s two biggest power companies, Progress Energy and Duke Energy.
NC WARN’s star witness is John Blackburn, a former chairman of Duke University’s economics department who was also the university’s provost and chancellor in the 1970s. He has also written two books on renewable energy.
Blackburn will testify that the state can shut down all of its coal-burning power plants in 15 years and meet all its energy needs through a combination of solar energy, wind power, cogeneration and energy efficiency. Cogeneration is the practice of recycling waste heat to generate electricity or heat.
Blackburn’s is the boldest claim yet made by environmental advocates in a public hearing before the utilities commission. Half the state’s current electricity needs are met by coal. Blackburn’s claim that it can all be replaced with green energy resources vastly exceeds the state goal of 12.5 percent by 2021.
Duke Energy calls Blackburn’s estimates reckless, unrealistic and “so flawed as to be completely unreliable,” in a filing with the commission.
Blackburn’s presentation will take place as part of an annual review of utility demand projections. Both companies have posted declining electricity sales during the recession, but Progress projects a 24 percent increase in demand by 2024, and Duke, 43 percent by 2029.