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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.

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