President Trump Orders Help For Coal And Nuclear Plants

Donald Trump wears a coal miners hat while addressing his supporters during a rally at the Charleston Civic Center

Ricky Carioti The Washington Post via Getty Images file

Instead, it says that the loss of both coal and nuclear plants could threaten national security, given that Department of Defense installations are 99 percent dependent on the grid. "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 White House-sponsored DoE memo reportedly states that "too many of these fuel-secure plants have retired prematurely and many more have recently announced retirement", while declaring that the replacement of coal and nuclear plants by natural gas and renewable power in the USA is not secure.

The US energy watchdog found the proposals neither justified nor reasonable But on Friday, the White House said it was working on a new plan.

Over dozens of pages, the memo makes the case for action, arguing that the decommissioning of power plants must be managed for national security reasons and that federal intervention is necessary before the USA reaches a tipping point in the loss of essential, secure electric generation resources.

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Department of Energy spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes did not respond to requests for comment.

In exploiting the 1950 Defense Production Act - an obscure Korean War-era energy procurement statute meant to streamline the war effort against Communism, particularly against China - Trump is looking for new ways to keep coal and nuclear power afloat in the USA, even as sustainable and ever-cheaper power generation in the country, including wind and solar, has risen sharply.

"The Trump administration is continuing to try to fulfill the president's campaign promise to his coal supporters to bail them out", says John Moore, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This needlessly raises costs for consumers and merely shifts the risk of premature retirement to newer, more efficient power plants that compete with coal and nuclear".

The directive comes as the Trump administration considers a plan to order grid operators to buy electricity from coal and nuclear plants to keep them open. 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. In the case of coal specifically, the National Energy Technology Lab stated that, during the 2018 Bomb Cyclone at the height of peak demand on January 5, 2018, "had coal been removed, a 9-18 GW shortfall would have developed".

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The move to mandate the purchase of electricity from old, uneconomic sources and guarantee revenue to the power plant owners has been described as an unprecedented intervention into energy markets. One independent group that manages the electricity grid that serves more than 65 million people said that it could be bad for consumers if the federal government intervenes in the market. Fortunately, the last bailout attempt was rejected unanimously by federal regulators, comprised mostly of Trump appointees.

Also supporting the Trump administration's decision was Sen.

Another coalition of energy industry groups representing the oil, natural gas, solar, and wind industries issued joint statements saying the administration's plan is "misguided", "unwarranted", and "an exercise in crony capitalism".

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