Energy Environment

Rick Perry’s Plan to Subsidize Dying Coal Plants Has Been Shelved

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

It's been a while since we've heard anything about the Trump regime's plan to subsidize coal-fired power plants that are due for retirement, but that's because the plan has been shelved according to Politico.

Trump recently told his supporters that his regime would bail out the coal industry, but Politico reports that Energy Secretary Rick Perry's plan ran into opposition from most advisers in the White House including the National Security Council. And perhaps more importantly, Perry also couldn't come up with a way to defend such a policy in court.

[The] White House has shelved the plan amid opposition from the president’s own advisers on the National Security Council and National Economic Council, according to four people with knowledge of the discussions. [...]

Industry lawyers and agency staffers say DOE leadership remains united behind a plan to keep the coal plants running, which would also help the coal-mining companies that provide fuel to the plants.

But the agency has struggled to provide the White House with details on which plants would get funding and who would pay, the sources said. Without a legally justifiable methodology, White House advisers have cooled to the idea of a major intervention in power markets.

Coming up with a "legally justifiable methodology" is the real trick here, because virtually everyone including some elements of the coal industry may have reasons to oppose it.

Subsidizing coal-fired power plants would mean raising prices on other energy customers who may not even rely on coal for electricity. That's an obvious reason for utilities and even state governments to oppose it.

On the flip side, if a subsidy was designed in a way that only benefited some coal companies -- like Murray Energy for example -- that would also give some parts of the industry a reason to oppose it.

And that's without mentioning environmental opposition.

Politico's report reminds us that Trump could change his mind at any time and order subsidies, but even if he does the policy could be tied up in court for years.

  • muselet

    I have sympathy for coal miners.

    They—and their fathers and their grandfathers and at least some of their great-grandfathers—have been told that they’re doing the only job they’re suited to do. They have been told that being toxic wastepits is all their states are good for. They’ve been lied to long enough that they have come to believe the lies.

    And yes, I understand the pride of doing a difficult, dangerous job that most people couldn’t and/or wouldn’t even try. Problem is, the predominant method of coal extraction isn’t underground mining but mountaintop romoval. A large coal extraction facility can be run by a dozen or so people seated at consoles, not by callused-handed men in hardhats a few years from dying of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.

    The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum switched over to solar power last year. I mentiion that not for the sake of irony, but because it illustrates a fundamental truth: coal is the past, renewable energy is the future.

    There is no shame in being a third- or fourth-generation coal miner. Likewise, there is no shame in assembling or installing solar panels, or wind turbines, or tidal hydropower systems, or in designing the things in the first place.

    Even if the Trump administration somehow defies the odds—and reality itself—and comes up with a legally justifiable methodology for subsidizing coal-fired power plants, coal will still be the past and renewables will still be the future. Like it or not.


  • mnpollio

    I make no apologies for sounding bitter or cynical, but the faster someone puts a stake in the coal industry, the better. I have really grown weary of listening to people beat their breasts about the importance of saving the all-important coal industry and the coal miner’s way of life like this is some treasure that needs to be maintained. Meanwhile, libraries and their staffs are cut to the bone, museums and their staffs are cut to the bone, fire departments are closed and their responsibilities thrown on to overburdened remainders, the EPA has been rendered useless, and teachers are stretched past the breaking point because of budget cuts and ignorance, but none of them are treated like they are worth an iota of concern. Yes – the almighty coal industry trumps all. Quite frankly, if coal miners are so passionate that their way of life needs to be enshrined and passed on to their offspring – who I am sure are just chomping at the bit to spend their lives rooting around in a dark hole in the ground, risking black lung disease and death due to deregulation, all to enrich already obscenely wealthy coal barons – then tell them to do it as a hobby on their own time. Perhaps I would be more sympathetic to them if it were not for the fact that every time there is a coal mining disaster due to negligence, they start bleating about someone helping them. Yet when people try to help they get their heads handed to them by the same coal miners/victims, who are so willfully manipulated by the coal barons. It is far past time to say goodbye to coal.

    • Draxiar

      100% Agree!! The death of one industry in favor of another is the way of the world. It’s evolution. When Hillary said that they’d be putting coal miners out of business it was in the context of a shift in the industry. She followed that up with expressing the need to help the casualties of that shift with job training, government assistance, etc so those people could still survive. Unfortunately her statement was abbreviated and repurposed to make her look like she *wanted* to make these people lose their livelihood. So now instead of being given a leg up these people have walked off the edge into the mine shaft. I don’t want these people to suffer but they did this to themselves.