My Kind of Double Clean Energy Standard

[Editor’s Note: In our latest column, EarthTechling contributing writer Pete Danko takes up the opinion mantle with his thoughts on a recent Center for Public Integrity article on Duke Energy and the Democratic Party. Note that this does not reflect official EarthTechling editorial opinion on CPI, the Democratic Party or Duke Energy. Have a rebuttal? Post it in the comments below or drop us a line.)

In a story Thursday, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) said a deal between the Democratic National Committee and Duke Energy, under which the coal-burning behemoth is backing a $10 million line of credit to help put on the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next year, “poses the appearance of a double standard for an administration that pledges a green energy strategy.”

And how!

In the 1,040 or so words that follow that blockbuster lead, the CPI details the depths of the Obama administration’s double dealing.

We find out, for instance, that the DNC’s deal with Duke Energy comes at the same time the administration’s Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with regulations that would force Duke to either shut down or clean up its coal-fired power plants.

Top of the World wind farm

image via Duke Energy

Why, just this week, the CPI’s Kristen Lombardi wrote, “the Environmental Protection Agency proposed stricter controls on mercury and other toxic air pollutants from power plants burning coal, one of many rules proposed by the agency that take aim at coal pollution.”

Can you believe it? Despite the DNC getting a sweetheart deal from Duke, the Obama administration is making life miserable for the company. Double standard!

Lombardi goes on to report that even as the DNC is getting in bed with Duke, the administration is “promoting the use of renewable and cleaner-burning fuels than oil and coal.” She writes that Energy Secretary Steven Chu went before a Congressional committee this week and “not only stood up for strengthening the nation’s nuclear industry but also urged support for the full mix of alternatives to traditional coal-burning.”

Apparently Chu, like the folks over EPA, didn’t get the memo that Duke is a big donor and they should go soft on the company. Double standard!

But wait, says Lombardi; there is evidence of the administration going soft on Duke. In an earlier report from CPI, she reminds readers, it was revealed that the Obama administration was greasing the regulatory skids for Duke to quickly use stimulus money for some big projects. Big, dirty, rotten, stinking coal-burning projects?

Oops, no. The projects the administration was helping Duke build were green projects – a wind power plant and an electrical grid upgrade. Not a gotcha, but, you guessed it: Double standard!

If CPI’s concern about a “double standard” here confuses you – since there’s no suggestion the Obama administration has done anything that runs counter to its green energy strategy – let me explain the problem: In Washington, the way it typically works is big companies funnel money to politicians and politicians do what the big companies want. By the usual Washington calculus, the Obama administration ought to be taking Duke’s money and doing Duke’s bidding.

It’s like when Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) maneuvered to save the banks $19 billion and to weaken the Volcker rule before agreeing to help pass financial reform legislation last year. There was no double standard there, friends. The banks donated more than $140,000 to Brown in a three-week period, and Brown spent those three weeks doing exactly what they wanted. Did this damage Brown’s reputation? If you saw that glowing profile of him on “60 Minutes” a few weeks ago, you know it didn’t.

Now, I will grant that there is a certain consistency to playing the game that way, and rarely does anyone get in trouble doing so. But, given my druthers, I think I’d take the Obama administration’s apparent double standard.

I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.