Duke Energy has broken ranks with the bulk of the USA’s energy industry with plans to lobby for a tax on carbon dioxide, calling it a ‘corporate responsibility’.

According to chairman Paul Anderson, the tax “must be mandatory, economy-wide and federal in scope.” The proposals make Duke the first major US utility to call for a carbon dioxide tax. Pushing for the widest possible basis of taxation – by including transport and manufacturing plants – will mean that the power industry is not the only industry targeted, said Anderson.

Anderson’s comments are being viewed as evidence of a move away from coal in favour of nuclear power given that a carbon tax would significantly improve the economics of nuclear generation. Duke has also been involved in the Department of Energy (DoE) programme to build a new nuclear plant. One Duke official has been cited as saying that the company is “focused on building a new reactor.”

Acknowledging that the passage of a carbon tax would be difficult, Anderson said: “Even if science proves that climate change isn’t a major problem, a carbon tax is a ‘no regrets’ policy that still results in less CO2 emissions and greater energy conservation.”