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Duke Energy, Environmentalists Debate Expansion Of Coal Plants

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Coal-fired plants generate more than half of North Carolina's electricity. Duke Energy said it sees coal as the most economical way to meet growing energy demands in the coming decades.

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers said he wants the North Carolina Utilities Commission to approve two new plants west of Charlotte. The hope is that the cleaner-burning, more efficient plants will replace four other aging smokestacks. The commission is holding hearings now on the Duke plan.

"We need coal-fired plants," said Rogers. "We need an aggressive approach on energy efficiency. We need both of those things to deliver power to our customers and to keep the lights on."

However, Duke Energy's critics said new plants will ultimately churn out more power and more carbon dioxide emissions than the old plants. They complain the power company has not seriously explored energy conservation, efficiency, and renewable sources.

Coal is used to produce more than half of the nation's electricity, but environmentalists say it's also the largest source of greenhouse gases altering the climate.

"We're making a $2 billion investment that we will not be able to walk away from, that we'll be using for years to come and will be a significant problem for global warming and climate change in North Carolina," said Richard Harkrader with the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association.

There are 14 coal-fired plants in North Carolina. Half are Duke Energy's. The company is the largest power plant source in the state. Last year, its plants produced more than 42 million tons of emissions.

The Utilities Commission hearings about the proposal will continue for the next two days. Duke said it hopes to get the first of the new plants up and running by 2011.


Cullen Browder, Reporter
Gil Hollingsworth, Photographer
Dana Franks, Web Editor

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