Friday, December 15, 2017
Opinion

Credibility is hard to come by with Duke Energy

This is not a critique of the proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County.

Let the engineers, watchdogs and investors debate the details of that plan.

This is about something simpler. In some ways, something far more important.

This is about credibility.

For more than three years, we have listened to a parade of electric company officials come up with increasingly hard-to-believe versions of their self-serving truths.

They have sworn that recession-era rate increases were for our own good, even while acknowledging it was an attempt to grow their profit level above a 10.5 percent return.

They promised Progress Energy boss Bill Johnson was their czar-in-waiting, and then shoved him out the door a few hours after Progress' merger with Duke Energy.

They once seemed to suggest they were a couple of lug nuts away from fixing Crystal River's broken nuclear plant, when the truth is that albatross may be beyond repair.

And now? Well, now Duke Energy executive Jeff Lyash is insisting the company has a definitive plan for building that mythical Levy County plant.

"We've made a decision to build Levy," said Lyash. "I'm confident in the schedule and numbers."

So what's the problem?

Well, a few weeks ago, CEO Jim Rogers declined to offer a time line on Levy while essentially questioning whether it will even be a necessity down the road.

Rogers cited the licensing process, the future price of natural gas, the company's level of diversity, the possibility of carbon costs and the question of whether Florida's growth curve returns to pre-recession levels as unknown factors in the equation.

"I think in (the next) five years, there is sort of a bubble question at that point in terms of will you go forward during that period or whether it will be delayed," Rogers said. "I think there are a lot of things we have to see going forward."

So, apparently, the truth resides somewhere between "damn the torpedoes" and "we may need a bigger boat."

And that is the problem with our energy executives. They will say anything at any moment to anyone if it keeps potential revenue streams alive. And by potential revenue streams, I am referring to your bank account.

Here are the basic choices:

Option A: Spend $3 billion or more while gambling that Crystal River can be repaired, and your problems are solved for the foreseeable future.

Option B: Spend at least $24 billion on Levy County while knowing most of us will be dead by the time the benefits catch up with the costs.

Option C: Bank on natural gas and solar energy in the future.

Unfortunately, our friends at Duke Energy seem to have come up with an Option D. They're taking an all-of-the-above approach.

They don't want to give up on Crystal River because there is insurance money to be had. They don't want to give up on Levy County because our Legislature has given them an ATM card to collect hundreds of millions in up-front nuclear costs from consumers.

And there is no downside to flirting with all three options because they could always decide to scrap nuclear energy without having to pay back any up-front fees.

In the end, there's only one way to know when energy officials are being truthful.

When they say no comment.

Comments

Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17