Speed Reads

War for Coal

Trump administration proposes mandating purchase of coal, nuclear power, citing national security

On Friday, the White House National Security Council is schedule to review a draft proposal from the Energy Department that would order power grid operators to buy energy from ailing coal and nuclear power plants, citing national security needs, Bloomberg News reports, calling the proposal "an unprecedented intervention into U.S. energy markets." Coal and nuclear plants are closing down due to age and market forces — natural gas and renewable energy are cheaper and cleaner — and the proposal is pitched as a "prudent stop-gap measure" that will subsidize struggling coal and nuclear plants while the Energy Department conducts a two-year study on "grid security challenges."

This isn't Energy Secretary Rick Perry's first attempt to subsidize coal and nuclear plants — federal regulators shot down his plan to directly compensate those plants in January, saying there's no evidence closing coal-fired plants would endanger the electric grid and such a move would raise costs for consumers. But this new 41-page proposal, dated May 29 and marked "not for further distribution," relies on emergency powers under the Federal Power Act and the 68-year-old Defense Production Act. Experts told Bloomberg that invoking national security concerns could stave off challenges this time around.

Saving coal and nuclear plants is a top priority for some of President Trump's major donors, and Trump has made saving coal a public crusade, but it wasn't clear if "Trump had signed off on the action nor when any order might be issued," Bloomberg said. Critics of bailing out coal producers, including natural gas and renewable energy advocates, say there are better, cheaper ways to safeguard the power grid than meddling with energy markets. You can read more about the proposal at Bloomberg News.