Is Duke a for-profit business or a utility?

To the Editor:

Bob Scott, alderman, town of Franklin, wrote a pointed letter to the editor titled, “Rate increase should be met with salary cuts.” Scott has done solid research in to the hefty salaries of Duke energy’s top executives. Their pay is certainly a slap in the face to thousands of their customers who have lost jobs and unemployment benefits.

In the same July 7 issue of the Macon County News, Duke says “Get the facts: Why is Duke Energy asking to increase electric rates?” In the next-to-last paragraph the reader is told, “In exchange (for rates approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission), the company )Duke) is allowed the opportunity to earn a fair return for investors who bear the financial risk of capital investment.

At the rest of over-simplifying the facts that exist for Duke customers, this is what I see. On one hand, Duke is still a utility company charged with the legal task of providing electric service for the customers in their area. When they want more money, they request help from the NCUC.

On the other hand, Duke is a company that sells stocks and makes every effort to provide financial rewards for investors. Now, if Duke operates as efficiently as possible, how can they justify paying investors profit. Their investors’ wealth is increased at the expense of all rate payers.

So is Duke really a utility? Or are they really a Fortune 500 company? It certainly does not appear that way. Duke is a hybrid company, a dual entity business/utility. In other words, they enjoy the profits of a successful corporation with the security of a utility.

This dual entity reminded me to re-read the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. It states, in part, “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person the equal protection of the laws.” That begs the question — if you do not own stock in Duke but pay for electricity, is it fair and just for your money to be shifted into the wealth of a stockholder?

Duke’s stockholders must very well like this business/utility arrangement. My friends basically tell me that nothing will ever be done without it. That may be true, but I still believe that as citizens of the United States we need to pay attention to laws that deprive us of our property. As one person there may not be anything I can do about the injustice. But, can you imagine how that could be affected by a united front of Duke customers?

Mr. Scott suggested one way to provide a little monetary relief to all Duke Energy users. This letter will, hopefully, show another. What will Duke do?

Think about it.

Dave Waldrop


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