Skip to main content

SF Chronicle Profiles PG&E's Peter Darbee

From a column by David Lazarus:
Peter Darbee, now winding up his second year as chief exec of PG&E Corp., is a self-professed conservative and no great friend to progressive causes.

So he's as surprised as anyone to find himself emerging as a corporate leader in, of all things for an energy industry heavyweight, saving the planet from global warming.

"If you had asked me five years ago, this wouldn't have occurred to me," Darbee acknowledged in an interview. "Somewhere in this process (of becoming CEO), I developed a point of view."

That point of view, specifically, is this: "The Earth is warming. Mankind appears to be responsible. The need to take action is now."

[...]

"What he's talking about is very welcome," said Carl Zichella, California regional director for the Sierra Club. "It's important to have business leaders of his caliber talking about this."

Not that PG&E and the Sierra Club are suddenly in bed together. Zichella said that if Darbee is really serious about safeguarding the environment, he'd also be looking to mothball the company's Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

PG&E is spending more than $700 million in ratepayer funds to refurbish the plant and keep it operational for at least another 20 years -- even though it's run out of room for spent fuel rods and now intends to store them, at least temporarily, on a hillside overlooking the coastal facility.

"They could just as easily be spending that $700 million on renewables," Zichella said.

Darbee responds that nuclear energy, which accounts for about 20 percent of electricity generation nationwide, has its place if our primary goal is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

"The threat of global warming is so significant," he said, "that many environmentalists who opposed nuclear energy now support it."
One day, it's Democrats supporting nuclear energy. The next, it's a Republican admitting that his views on global warming have changed, and it's time for caps on carbon emissions.

There's a chance for a deal here. The world can't afford to pass it up.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…