Trump Schemes to Give Taxpayer's Cash to Nuclear & Coal Buddies Thwarted
On January 8, federal regulators voted down Trump's latest scheme to bail-out the coal and nuclear energy industries with massive taxpayer subsidies.
With the rise of renewable energy and availability of cheap natural gas, the dirty and inefficient industries of coal and nuclear power have suffered a decline in profits.
Under Trump's direction, Energy Secretary Perry tried a number of things to divert tax dollars to Trump's supporters in the dirty energy industry. He tried adding surcharges on renewable energy, arguing that the energy flow from solar and wind plants is less consistent than from coal and nuclear and so had to be penalized. That went nowhere.
Then he asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to ensure financial returns for power plants that could prove they can stockpile at least three months of fuel on site. That would have benefited the sagging coal and nuclear plant industries, both of which have been strong supporters of Trump and, more generally, the Republicans in Congress.
Perry also doubled down on his position about the need for power plants to supply energy at all hours of the day. He claimed that without this access to consistent power on a 24-7 basis, the electrical grid would not work effectively. Further, losing those older coal and nuclear plants forever, which is part of what the country is facing, would for him represent a major threat to the “reliability and resiliency of our power grid.” Perry’s proposal was attacked strongly by those who argued that his positions would not only end up forcing higher power costs on the country but also damage what has become a highly competitive energy environment. That competition has brought power costs down and helped stimulate the rise of renewable energy across the country.
While it is true that solar only produces power when the sun is shining and wind turbines only generate power when the wind is blowing enough to turn them, this power can also be stored and is adequately supplemented by natural gas fired power plants.
America has a surplus of electrical energy but does need more transmission lines to get power where it is needed most.
The FERC ended up voting against Perry’s recommendations. It sided both with the critics’ comments about competition as well as with the argument about the fraud that obsolete coal and nuclear plants must be kept alive at all costs to ensure a stable power grid.
In a statement made by Commissioner Richard Glick, who agreed with the FERC’S decision to reject Perry’s plan, he said, “There is no evidence in the record to suggest that temporarily delaying the retirement of uncompetitive coal and nuclear generators would meaningfully improve the resilience of the grid.” He went on to say that, instead, “the record demonstrates that if a threat to grid resilience exists, [that] threat lies mostly with the transmission and distribution systems, where virtually all significant disruptions occur.”
Perry and the White House have not given up on their hope to do something about their strong supporters in the coal industry. It is a serious issue for those groups, with utilities having already, in 2017, announced plans to shutter more than 22 GW of coal capacity. More shutdowns are expected to be announced in 2018.
Trump’s plans call for reducing emissions requirements at those plants, in the hopes that this may make them more cost-competitive for the future – even while allowing more carbon dioxide and mercury to be emitted into the atmosphere. Because that would mostly benefit new plants, it is not considered something that will make much of a difference, even if the regulations would stand for enough time to make a difference.
The problem with the Trump and Perry logic is that if one wants to actively look at all of the costs associated with coal and nuclear plants, one needs to examine not just the instantaneous costs of operation but instead the true life-cycle costs. Both the coal industry (which has ravaged lives both locally, because of mining and local pollutants, and on an international scale, because of global warming) and nuclear power (which is facing a cost of tens of billions of dollars when decommissioning eventually happens) have balance sheets that are completely impossible to pay for when the actual costs are allowed to be accounted for.
The moronic attempts to sustain an obsolete and dying industry at taxpayer's expense should be taken as the offense it is.
There is no technological or economic reason that the United States could not have a completely renewable and clean energy system that sustains plenty of wellpaying jobs and provides low-cost power.
Dirty energy is a social problem caused by voters who put corrupt and unintelligent politicians into power.
The consequences are needless economic despair, a contaminated environment, illness and death.
We the people can make better choices.