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Opinion: How coal and nuclear became $70 billion welfare queens

The coal and nuclear industry are lobbying the federal government for extra payments to store fuel on site because their current cost structures cannot compete in the US power markets. The Trump administration has suggested a $70 billion tax on US electricity consumers that could bring about an additional 27,000 deaths.

Murray Energy Corporation, a coal company, CEO Bob Murray says of the tax, ‘It’s the single greatest action that has been taken in decades to support low-cost reliable electric power in the United States. It has to happen.’

The logic is that ‘baseload’ power sources must have 90 day on site storage and they deserve extra payments from the government for  having that 90 days window of resiliency. The two electricity sources are fighting hard for this $70 billion windfall from electricity users in the USA (about $218 per American) over the course of the next ten years.

A more holistic analysis of the program suggests, including environmental costs, a $263 billion dollar bill that includes 27,000 additional Americans dying.

The Action Plan

This $65 billion coal portion of the tax is the culmination of a plan of actions that have occurred since President Trump took office and former Texas Governor, Rick Perry was put in charge of the Department of Energy.

The playbook for these actions supposedly started with the aforementioned coal company CEO Bob Murray handing the newly inaugurated Trump a literal “action plan” last January for reviving the  slumping coal industry.

Murray said in a phone interview with,

[President Trump has] gone down that action plan, not because of me but because of what they wanted to do. Cleaned up about a page and a half of those first 3 ½ pages.

The Game is On

In April of this year Perry dictated the Department of Energy to do an analysis of the power grid. Perry suggested that renewables were adding instability to the power grid and were driving fundamentally important power sources, coal and nuclear, away from the market.

The results of the grid analysis was clear – natural gas and energy efficiency were the two biggest challenges to coal, with renewables slowly growing. Additionally – the grid report showed that stability had actually increased wherever renewable energy was installed as upgrades were installed to help manage the new energy generation sources.

The author of the paper stated clearly that Perry’s ‘baseload’ definition was wrong, as the word has nothing to do with power plant type.

The Fix is In

The interpretations of the report by Perry were, however, spun a different way. The spin was that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ought to change their rules and begin to pay extra fees to coal and nuclear plants for storing 90 days worth fuel on site.

Fuel supply issues have been responsible for 0.00007% of power disruptions in the US over the past 5 years,

Perry’s spin was delivered to FERC in a memo described by Murray, the coal CEO action plan writer, glowingly –

It’s the single greatest action that has been taken in decades to support low-cost reliable electric power in the United States. It has to happen.

Perry has attempted to push the rule through FERC faster than normal – going so far as to call upon religious heritage

“The Lord made the world in seven days, so I think FERC could have a rule making in 60”

Neil Chatterjee, newly Trump appointed chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said Thursday, Nov. 9 that said he expects to release a plan to rescue plants by Dec. 11, along with a framework for completing a broader rule that addresses Perry’s proposal. His main work for now is working on a legal means of saving as many “resilient” coal and nuclear plants as possible.

Coal needs to Die

The reason we have seen the power industry fall in total pollution is because coal is dying. Coal has just recently fallen below 30% of our electricity. Coal dying is saving thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in the USA alone. Our international partners have declared coal dead.

Sadly, as coal dies – it’s also killing its workers at a higher rate. States and Trump are offering coal safety cost cut backs to help keep the mines open. The costs are passed onto the families of the workers.

These rules are not yet final, however; the die has been cast in the forms of millions in campaign contributions and political appointees. As Perry told us recently, ‘There is no free market in the energy industry.’

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