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What is Rogers thinking? For one thing, he's personally worried about global warming and believes that the scientific debate about what causes it has long been settled. He thinks that the U.S. will be forced to regulate carbon--as most other industrialized countries have done--within the next five years, if not sooner. And as the CEO of a publicly traded company, he has to make decisions that will affect shareholders decades in the future. Power plants have life spans of 50 years, and if carbon is taxed, the fuel calculus of those plants changes radically. "We're very dependent on coal," says Rogers, "and if you're going to have earnings growth that's sustainable over a long period of time, you [need] certainty on the carbon issue."
With the approval last month by Cinergy's board of a merger with Duke Energy, Rogers is poised to run one of America's largest utilities, and he aims to lead by example. In recent years, Cinergy has spent $1 billion to increase its use of cleaner-burning natural gas, including $200 million to convert a coal-fired plant, and Rogers has cut Cinergy's reliance on coal from 87% of its fuel to 73%. He has pledged to reduce Cinergy's CO2 emissions 5% below 2000 levels by 2012, and he is investing in projects to sequester carbon in forests. Rogers is evaluating coal- gasification technology for a plant in Indiana, which could dramatically cut carbon emissions from burning coal, still the least expensive and most abundant fossil fuel in the U.S.
Even if he succeeds, Cinergy's environmental record will be far from perfect. A $1.4 billion settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency over alleged violations of the Clean Air Act fell apart when Cinergy backed away from the deal. The original suit is slowly working its way through the courts. And Cinergy supports Bush's efforts to roll back provisions of the Clean Air Act that govern utilities.
But with global warming, Rogers vows to keep the heat on his colleagues in the energy industry and on Washington politicians. "My greatest fear is that we don't deal with the problem now," he says, "and we wake up one day and don't have enough time." --By D.F. Reported by David Thigpen/Cincinnati