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A clean break from coal for Duke Energy

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Kai Ryssdal: Duke Energy is the third largest electricity company in the country. And as of today it’s no longer part of a group called The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. It’s a lobbying group aimed at greening-up the image of coal-fired power plants that use new technology to cut down on greenhouse gases. But Duke says the group is aimed at something else too: blocking climate change legislation. Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman explains Duke’s change of heart.


MITCHELL HARTMAN: It’s not like Duke opposes clean coal. It’s just that Duke also wants the government to enact a climate bill that would cap carbon emissions.

And that’s where the energy giant parts ways with the clean-coal coalition, says spokesman Tim Williams.

TIM WILLIAMS: And it’s become increasingly clear since the climate bill passed the House that there were some very influential members who would not support climate-change legislation no matter how it was written.

Amanda Rosen is a political scientist at Webster University. She says many energy companies think a crack-down on carbon is inevitable. So they might as well get on board.

AMANDA ROSEN: Rather than opposing any action, it’s better to be on the other side of the equation, working with the legislation and tweaking it so that it helps them as much as possible.

In Duke’s case, that means influencing how new legislation will treat investments in clean energy, how it will value reductions in carbon emissions.

WILLIAMS: We’re building the world’s largest coal-gasification plant, we’re pursuing two nuclear stations that would dramatically reduce our carbon emissions. But again, those are $12 billion investments, and we really need to get the regulatory framework set on climate before we make those investments.

Williams says by leaving the clean-coal coalition, Duke believes it can get a final climate bill that will be easier for businesses to afford.

I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

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