By John Downey
Environmental groups came out in force for Jim Rogers’ final shareholders meeting as Duke Energy Corp.’s CEO.
In addition to about 50 people gathered outside Duke’s former headquarters building in uptown Charlotte for a sidewalk protest, dozens were inside to ask questions and make statements at the annual open session Rogers holds after the business session of the company’s annual meetings.
Environmental questions dominated that session, with only a sprinkling of Rogers’ anti-green energy critics showing up for this year’s meeting.
Coal, carbon emissions and global warming came up repeatedly, with Rogers contending that Duke is working to modernize its fleet to provide cleaner energy.
Grant Mincy of Clean Water for North Carolina raised environmental concerns about hydraulic fracturing — a method for extracting natural gas from shale deposits — and questioned Duke’s increasing use of natural gas plants.
But issues concerning nuclear power and the use of renewable-energy sources seemed to dominate.
Lewis Zoeller of Blue Ridge Environmental Defense Fund was particularly confrontational. Citing Germany’s decision to abandon nuclear power and increase its use of wind and solar power, Rogers replied that Germany pays about 35 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity while Duke customers pay on average 8 cents.
As Zoeller continued to dispute the point, Rogers raised an audible gasp from the crowd when he said, “What your calling for might work some day, but not in the next hundred years.”