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Trump readies new plan to aid coal and nuclear power

04 June 2018
Trump readies new plan to aid coal and nuclear power

The Trump administration's claims of energy security for keeping coal and nuclear plants online is not supported by the facts, as multiple power networks, including PJM, one of the biggest U.S. independent systems, point to a recent extremely cold "bomb cyclone" weather event in the U.S. northeast that showed the regional grid operating efficiently despite coal power plant closures, cited by Ars Technica. "The Defense Production Act grants the president the authority to ensure that the nation's domestic industrial base is capable of providing the essential materials and resources needed to defend our nation and protect our sovereignty, and it recognizes energy production and critical infrastructure as strategic and crucial to that goal".

The memo added that "federal action is necessary to stop the further premature retirements of fuel-secure generation capacity".

The draft memo laying out the directive would not give a certain quantity operators must spend however says it will likely be sufficient to maintain the services open for the following two years, saying that US nationwide safety "depends on a strong USA home industrial base, of which the coal, nuclear, and oil and pure fuel industries are vital strategic parts".

Essentially, that would force grid operators to buy coal or nuclear power even if other options like natural gas or renewable sources are cheaper.

The Energy Department would be relying partly on the Federal Power Act - the so-called Section 202 authority - that lets the administration order guaranteed profits for power plants that can store large amounts of fuel on site.

The Trump Administration is planning to support struggling coal-fired power plants by having grid operators purchase electricity from them. Energy experts across a range of industries, within the federal government and in academia have agreed that this sort of effort will create a bloated power sector deploying outmoded technologies. Nationwide, BNEF said, two dozen nuclear plants - representing almost 33 gigawatts - are either scheduled to close or probably won't make money through 2021.

According to data from the Energy Information Administration, coal consumption has fallen about 20 percent compared to a year ago, 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. The move would be one of the most direct efforts by Trump to make good on campaign promises to revive the nation's shrinking coal industry. "They feel that Colstrip is definitely an asset that needs to stay on line in order to provide reliable electricity to their assets in the Northwest", Ankney said.

According to Bloomberg, the move would signal an unprecedented intervention in the US energy industry. 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". Fortunately, the last bailout attempt was rejected unanimously by federal regulators, comprised mostly of Trump appointees. A FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary requested immediate intervention from Perry's agency in late March. And it is the biggest dumb move by this administration I have seen, at least since yesterday - when Trump effectively made all our allies angry with his ridiculous trade tariffs.

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.