Deal over controversial energy bill leaves Duke on track to keep building 50 gas-fired units despite pleas by world scientists, new revelations on methane
A deal announced Friday between NC Gov. Roy Cooper and Duke Energy gives cover for the Charlotte-based corporate giant to continue its climate-wrecking expansion of gas-fired power plants and a dangerous storage facility in Robeson County. Behind all the smoke and mirrors about proposed emission reduction percentages is a stark reality: The climate crisis is accelerating and the world’s scientists say curbing the use of methane (so-called natural gas) is the fastest way to slow it down.
The Cooper-Duke deal also allows Duke Energy to raise electric rates in multi-year blocks – a scheme opposed by nearly every business and nonprofit tracking the bill. A similar multi-year scheme allowed Dominion Energy to overcharge Virginia electricity users more than a billion dollars. In this state, it would help Duke continue its gas expansion and the constant rate increases that especially harm low-income North Carolinians.
Astonishingly, the deal was announced only two weeks after President Biden and the European Union announced bold action to tackle the climate crisis by pledging to cut emissions of methane, a climate super-pollutant. Biden is heeding the scientists who have maintained for years that cutting methane emissions from the oil, gas and electric power industries is the fastest way to slow the rate of global heating.
Duke University’s Drew Shindell is lead author of the May U.N. report on methane that preceded Biden’s move. He and other scientists have urged NC Governor Roy Cooper since 2019 to lead a national ban against new gas infrastructure such as Duke Energy’s plans for 50 gas-fired power units along with a liquid gas storage facility Duke Energy is building in Robeson County.
The bill also does nothing to stop Duke Energy leaders’ long-running efforts to limit the growth of renewable power, which is now cheaper and more reliable than new gas.
This bill is a profit-making scam and an affront to the North Carolina communities being harmed first and worst by hurricanes. These are disproportionately low-income and communities of color who need the Governor to prioritize their interests and to heed the climate scientists.
As the White House emphasizes, “Rapidly reducing methane emissions is … regarded as the single most effective strategy to reduce global warming in the near term and keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach.”
Duke Energy, the nation’s worst climate polluting power provider, is planning to build more than twice as much new gas generation as any other US utility by 2030, according to a February analysis by the Sierra Club.
Even with all its greenwashing millions, it will be hard for Duke Energy leaders to keep suppressing public attention and pushback against its massive gas expansion.
As the public belatedly learns that cutting methane is key to our survival – and that renewable power matched with electricity storage and energy-saving plans is a cheaper and more reliable approach for our electricity – the demand will build for a major shift off fossil fuels.