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Trump Appointees Accidentally Fuck Over Coal Companies In Name Of Free Market. WHOOPS!
The smart glasses failed again.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry had a great idea to help bring back the coal industry: a plan that would subsidize power generation stations that stored 90 days of fuel on-site, to prevent disruptions in the power grid due to storms or other disasters. Unfortunately, the free-marketeers Donald Trump appointed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) unanimously rejected Perry's proposal Monday, because shouldn't the market decide energy prices, not the oppressive hand of the federal government?
“We appreciate the Secretary reinforcing the resilience of the bulk power system as an important issue that warrants further attention," the agency said in the order. Four of the five commissioners were appointed by Trump; three are Republicans.
Bummer for the troubled coal and nuclear industries, which had been lobbying hard for the price support scheme. The plan would have boosted the wholesale electricity price for coal and nuclear plants, which are the only types of power stations that can easily store fuel on site. Gas and oil are delivered by pipelines, and those stupid solar and wind systems can't even store ANY sun or wind onsite, the fools! The proposal was opposed by all major US grid operators, who argued it would threaten competition in the energy market and keep antiquated coal and nuclear plants in service past their useful lifespans, which was the point, don't say that so loud.
While the decision on the Perry proposal is final, the commission did give electric grid operators 60 days to submit their own suggestions for making the nation's energy system more resilient, after which the FERC may introduce new regulations.
The rejected Perry plan had been seen by many as a wet kiss for a couple of its biggest backers, FirstEnergy, a midwestern utility company, and FirstEnergy's top supplier, the coal company Murray Energy. Robert Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, had argued that the nation's very energy security depends on courageous coal plants storing up mounds of the stuff, pointing out, "[You] can’t store wind at a power plant. You can’t store sunshine. You can’t even store natural gas."
Murray is also one of Donald Trump's bestest pals in the coal industry, and had been a major influence in persuading Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Why, yes, that IS the same Donald Trump who accused the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton of advancing crony capitalism.
Murray must really be cheesed by the FERC vote, another setback to his goal of federal bailouts for coal in general and Murray Energy in particular. Back in August, the Energy Department also turned down Murray's request that it order coal-fueled power plants to keep generating electricity even if they went bankrupt, again all in the name of keeping the grid "resilient." That's not the government he paid good money for, dammit.
Not even the recent cold snap in the East could offer much evidence to support Perry's insistence that coal and nuke plants need subsidies so they can take up the slack in a weather emergency. Regional grids had plenty of generating capacity, and while some plants switched away from natural gas to take advantage of lower prices, they went for a temporary switch to oil. As it happened, the one big generation station that went offline when the freeze took down power lines was a nuclear plant in New England.
Stocks for FirstEnergy and for Exelon Corporation, the biggest operator of nuclear plants in the US, were down Tuesday morning. Maria Kornick, who heads the nuclear industry trade group the Nuclear Energy Institute, said this was all a very sad development that could lead to the retirement of most of the nation's nuke plants, saying, "Once closed, these facilities are shuttered forever." It sure is sad to see an entire industry endangered by market forces, to be sure. Usually that just happens to stupid old fish and owls and stuff.
For his part, Rick Perry declared flawless victory after his plan was unanimously voted down:
“As intended, my proposal initiated a national debate on the resiliency of our electric system," Perry said in a statement. "What is not debatable is that a diverse fuel supply, especially with on site fuel capability, plays an essential role in providing Americans with reliable, resilient and affordable electricity.”
We sure hope Perry has a lot more successes like that. In the meantime, Donald Trump's first campaign manager and still bestie Corey Lewandowski saw something much more sinister in the vote by a commission loaded with Trump appointees:
Wow. How does he not fall over more?
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