Trump's Coal, Nuke Push Pegged to Security Threats to Gas Pipes

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

President Donald Trump ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take immediate action to stem power plant closures in the name of national security, arguing that a decline in coal and nuclear electricity is putting the nation's grid at risk.

Since campaigning for the White House, Trump has vowed to revive the ailing US coal industry. At the same time, hackers from criminal groups and hostile regimes are growing increasingly sophisticated in how they target weak spots.

Possible proposals include having the Department of Energy have grid operators buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants for two years. The plan calls for Perry to use the Federal Power Act and the Defense Production Act to temporarily delay retirements of coal and nuclear plants.

Murray has been seeking emergency action to boost his industry since past year and has met with Trump to argue that federal help was needed to avert thousands of layoffs and maintain the reliability of the electric grid up and down the East Coast.

During that time, the DOE would conduct a study of vulnerabilities in the U.S. power grid system. Nationwide, BNEF said, two dozen nuclear plants - representing almost 33 gigawatts - are either scheduled to close or probably won't make money through 2021. Trump has directed Perry "to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources and looks forward to his recommendations". "There is no need for any such drastic action", said a PJM spokesperson about the new idea.

Perry in September asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to consider "guaranteeing financial returns" for power plants able to "stockpile" 90 days worth of fuel on site.

Oil slips towards US$75 as threat of OPEC boost weighs
Global oil prices have risen by as much as 40 percent since OPEC+ began curbing output at the beginning of 2017. Although there seems to be no spat now among Opec and its allies, "there may be a dispute down the road".

That didn't quell requests for help.

Opponents of the new plan contend bailouts are a solution in search of a problem.

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 USA northeast that showed the regional grid operating efficiently despite coal power plant closures, cited by Ars Technica. They argue there are many ways to back up the grid that won't cost ratepayers billions of dollars. "Any federal intervention in the market to order customers to buy electricity from specific power plants would be damaging to the markets and therefore costly to consumers".

Analysts said the new plan would face numerous legal and political challenges before it could get implemented. Tapping two statutes simultaneously also could give the administration more "legal room", Peskoe said. Normally, that authority is used in natural disasters or other crises.

"Uneconomic, dirty coal plants retiring does not represent a national security risk", Environmental Defense Fund director of federal energy policy and senior attorney Michael Panfil wrote on his blog.

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