Anti-Sustainability: Trump Orders DoE to Keep Fading US Coal Industry Alive

04 June, 2018, 00:27 | Author: Devin Moran
  • Op-Ed Dumbest move yet— Saving coal plants in name of national security

The Defense Production Act, adopted in 1950 at the start of the Korean War, allows the federal government to intervene in business to promote national security.

"Too many of these fuel-secure plants have retired prematurely and many more have recently announced retirement", the 41-page memo reads.

The Energy Department would also establish a "Strategic Electric Generation Reserve". The National Security Council was set to meet Friday to discuss the Energy Department's latest idea for shoring up the facilities.

While the DoE draft memo is not yet official, the move is seen by Capitol Hill insiders as an indication that Trump advisors - particularly those representing the energy sector - are getting serious about doing whatever it takes to keep coal and nuclear power afloat in the country.

DOE did not respond to requests for comment.

The administration has said it is concerned the retirement of old coal and nuclear plants could put US power supplies at risk because - unlike solar, wind, and natural gas power facilities - coal and nuclear generators can store fuel on site.

"If DOE proceeds as the memo suggests, a selection of coal and nuclear plants, ostensibly those at risk of retirement, would receive subsidized payments. under a stitched-together "Frankenstein's monster" of federal authorities", said a commentary by Height Analytics, a consulting firm.

The Trump administration could invoke two seldom-used laws to save faltering coal and nuclear plants, according to a Bloomberg News report.


The Trump administration reportedly has plans in the works to direct USA grid operators to purchase power from struggling coal and nuclear facilities - a move immediately condemned by several energy industry associations and clean energy groups. The owner of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant has said its plant has been unprofitable for six years.

According to data from the Energy Information Administration, coal consumption has fallen about 20 percent compared to previous year, from about 149,200,000 short tons in the first two months of 2017 to just under 119,600,000 short tons in the first two months of 2018.

This is not the first time that the Administration has sought to squelch free market competition by bailing out old, risky, uneconomic coal and nuclear plants.

If the Trump administration were to invoke these two statutes, the move would nearly certainly be challenged in federal court by natural gas and renewable energy companies, which could stand to lose market share. The operator for much of the Mid-Atlantic, it says it has "secured reliable supplies through 2021/2022" and that this kind of federal intervention "would be damaging to the markets and therefore costly to consumers".

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent agency, unanimously rejected an earlier proposal by the Energy Department that would have favored coal and nuclear plants.

"This action is essential in order to protect the resiliency and reliability of our nation's electric power grids", Murray said Friday in an email.

Also supporting the Trump administration's decision was Sen.

A diverse group of energy industry groups - including oil, natural gas, solar and wind power - condemned the proposal, saying it would raise energy prices and distort markets.

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