Thursday, January 11, 2018

Trump Gets The Coaled Shoulder

Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry's big plan to save the coal industry has been completely wrecked by Trump's own appointees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, who unanimously voted to scrap the Trump regime's plan to require states to use more "reliable" coal and nuclear power (and to stockpile coal and nuclear fuel as a "national security issue") over "unreliable" wind and solar.

As proposed, the rule aimed to improve the resilience and stability of the electrical grid. Citing some electricity problems that struck during the “polar vortex”-induced cold snap of 2014, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry proposed that utility companies should pay coal and nuclear plants to keep weeks of extra fuel on hand.

The Department of Energy, which Perry leads, doesn’t have the power to force utilities to follow such a rule itself. But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, is charged by Congress with regulating interstate electricity sales and some power utilities. Perry asked FERC’s five commissioners to adopt his proposed rule within 60 days.

The plan was always controversial. Critics argued that Perry’s bailout would harm natural-gas plants, slow the growth of solar and wind energy, and introduce new and costly distortions to U.S. energy markets.

They also doubted the logic of the rule, saying that power plants rarely went down because they didn’t have enough fuel on hand. The Rhodium Group, an economics-research firm, found that only 0.00007 percent of U.S. power-outage hours between 2012 and 2016 were caused by a lack of available fuel.

Energy economists and environmental groups also maintained the rule would effectively subsidize carbon-dioxide pollution, which causes global warming. “Doing nothing [about climate change] is already not merited by economics,” Michael Greenstone, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, said in October. “This is like doubling down.”

Worst of all, critics said, the plan would spike Americans’ electricity bills. The energy-consulting group ICF estimated that the rule would cost ratepayers an extra $800 million to $3.8 billion every year.

In a statement on Monday, FERC thanked Perry for his attention to grid resiliency and said it would continue to research and pay attention to the issue. But individual commissioners were more cutting in their replies.

“The proposed rule had little, if anything, to do with resilience, and was instead aimed at subsidizing certain uncompetitive electric generation technologies,” said Richard Glick, a Trump-appointed FERC commissioner, dubbing the plan “a multi-billion dollar bailout targeted at coal and nuclear generating facilities.”

He added that he was sympathetic to the plight of coal miners and nuclear workers, but that helping them was outside the agency’s legal power. “We have a history in this country of helping those who, through no fault of their own, have been adversely affected by technological and market change. But that is the responsibility of Congress and the state legislatures. It is not a role that the Federal Power Act provides to the commission,” he said.

So, if Trump wants to give King Coal a bailout, Republicans in Congress are going to have to do that. And raise power bills for Americans.  In an election year.

Good luck, guys.

The funny part is Trump is so incompetent, he can't even get his own cronies to approve his own quid pro quo plans to reward wealthy coal baron donors.  This should have been a slam dunk, as Trump has appointed four of the five commissioners on the FERC board, and all five of them said "This is stupid even for Trump".

I mean it's obviously the definition of crony capitalism here.  But it was so obvious that even Trump's own cronies wouldn't do it.

How pathetic is that?

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