Trump administration reinforces intent to prop up dying coal plants

Aiming another shot at renewable energy, the Trump administration confirmed that it has ordered U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take immediate steps to prop up failing coal and nuclear plants around the country. Many of the proposed tactics involve heavy government intervention—effectively subsidizing, rather than taxing, carbon emissions, the main driver of climate change. On Thursday, Bloomberg obtained a leaked draft memo, which proposes requiring grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants for two years, even when cleaner and cheaper energy options are available. A Republican-led federal energy commission, with four Trump administration appointees, unanimously rejected a nearly identical proposal in January as illegal. The backlash sparked an unlikely partnership: Oil and gas groups sided with renewable energy organizations and released a joint statement, calling the move “legally indefensible.” According to the White House, federal action is necessary to ensure the “resilience of our power grid,” but the nation’s largest grid operator disagrees, stating on Friday that “there is no need” for the “drastic action” outlined in the memo. These efforts appear to be a last-ditch attempt to make good on campaign promises to save coal that so far haven’t panned out: At least 25 more coal plants have shut down since President Trump took office, largely due to renewable and natural gas competition.

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