Anti-Sustainability: Trump Orders DoE to Keep Fading US Coal Industry Alive

Pablo Tucker
June 4, 2018

Another company that could benefit is one of its main suppliers of coal - Murray Energy.

"This prudent stop-gap measure" will allow coal and nuclear plants to remain open while the department takes further steps to secure the grid, the memo said.

The Trump Administration has determined coal-fired are vital to the protection of the nation's energy grid, according to a statement released Friday by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

According to a report from Bloomberg, at a meeting today of the White House National Security Council, a 41-page draft memo was circulated that outlines the need for the USA grid to be "resilient and secure".

He told Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to "prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources".

The Energy Department would also establish a "Strategic Electric Generation Reserve".

"While we believe DOE has broad privileges to identify threats to national security, we are skeptical that (the order) entitles DOE to direct power market operators (.) to pay generators more based upon that threat", said Katie Bays, energy analyst at Height Capital Markets in Washington.

The document has been marked as a "draft", the report states. "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". A FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary requested immediate intervention from Perry's agency in late March. FERC instead launched a fresh review (AD18-7) of grid resilience to determine if commission action was warranted in this area.

The draft memo laying out the directive doesn't give a specific amount operators would have to spend but says it will be enough to keep the facilities open for the next two years, saying that USA national security "relies on a robust US domestic industrial base, of which the coal, nuclear, and oil and natural gas industries are critical strategic components". Normally, that authority is used in natural disasters or other crises.

The DPA, enacted in 1950 during the Korean War to ensure the availability of critical materials and resources for the U.S. national defense, allows the secretary of energy, through a presidential delegation, to require contracts or allocations of materials and services to maximize domestic energy supplies. 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.

The newly elected Karnataka Chief Minister, H D Kumaraswami, has also communicated to the Prime Minister warning of the coal shortages being faced by three power plant in his state, which now have coal stocks to operate for 15 days.

McKinley said the closure of additional power plants will weaken America's national security. There have been meetings this week at the cabinet deputies' level and at the National Security Council.

The draft plan would require power grid operators to buy electricity from struggling plants over the next two years to prevent more from shutting down.

A common argument among opponents is that coal and nuclear units are not infallible during stresses on the system, and that transmission and distribution issues are more often the culprit when resilience issues arise, not generation or fuel supply concerns. Even natural gas supplies can be disrupted by supply-line breakdowns, they suggest.

"Too many of these fuel-secure plants have retired prematurely and many more have recently announced retirement", only to be replaced by less-secure, less-resilient natural gas and renewable power sources, the memo said.

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