Charge consumers to fight global warming - Exec

Duke Energy CEO says fee on utility bills could fund research into cleaner energy sources, calls approach more fair than congressional proposals.

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By Steve Hargreaves, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The head of one of the nation's largest utilities called Thursday for a surcharge on electric bills to fund research into clean energy sources, saying that such a scheme is more equitable than others Congress is contemplating.

"Trying to fund R&D through a cap and trade mechanism is a mistake," said James Rogers, chief executive of Charlotte, N.C-based Duke Energy (Charts, Fortune 500).

Cap-and-trade proposals in Congress - meant to counter global warming - would auction off permits to companies that emit the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and use the money to fund alternative energy.

Under such system, the government would gradually reduce the number of permits available each year. Companies would then either buy those permits or pay to install cleaner equipment.

Rogers, speaking at a lecture sponsored by the energy information company Platts, said he supported a cap-and-trade plan in which the government gives away permits instead of selling them. He said that was fairer to utility customers in states that rely heavily on carbon dioxide-heavy coal to generate electricity.

Instead, he would fund clean technology research through a surcharge on electricity bills nationwide. Rogers didn't propose a specific charge but said it was essential that all Americans pay for a wide range of clean energy technologies - not just cleaner coal but nuclear, natural gas, wind and solar.

Experts project that domestic electricity demand will surge 40 percent over the next two decades. Rogers said the nation needs to mount a massive response - akin to the Apollo space program or the Manhattan nuclear weapons project.

"We need new technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 or 80 percent," he said. "It's the only way to build a bridge to that world."

Duke is a member of a consortium of environmental groups and companies - including General Electric (Charts, Fortune 500), Caterpillar (Charts, Fortune 500) and Alcoa (Charts, Fortune 500) - pushing for measures to reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. The group aims for a 60-80 percent cut in emissions by 2050 - in line with what most scientists say is required to stave off the worst effects of global warming. To top of page

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