By Jason Hopkins
May 12, 2018 - As coal and nuclear plants across the country continue to falter, members of President Donald Trump’s administration are weighing solutions that can save jobs without wreaking havoc on the grid.
The U.S. energy industry is rapidly evolving. The implementation of fracking has skyrocketed the production of natural gas, making it cheaper and more efficient than other fossil fuels. The rise of natural gas, however, has been to the detriment of other energy sources — namely coal and nuclear power. Becoming less and less profitable, numerous coal and nuclear plants in recent years have either shut down or announced imminent closures. For example, FirstEnergy solutions will be closing several of its nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania. If a buyer isn’t located by the end of May, the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station will meet a similar fate.
Trump campaigned on promises to breath life back into the coal sector. As he continues on his ambitious deregulation agenda, many in the industry have appealed to him for help. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is considering the Defense Production Act in order to keep unprofitable plants running. The Cold War-era law was enacted in the 1950s and meant to protect the grid in times of war. However, many are criticizing the idea of utilizing an archaic law to rescue “uneconomical” plants.
“It’s perhaps not the most obvious fit,” said Kevin McIntyre, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, during an electric grid conference The Washington Post hosted Thursday. “I am sure DOE has a handle on that issue,” he continued. McIntyre’s comments were tepid but still emblematic of widespread skepticism over the idea of emergency powers being a longterm solution for energy stability.
“I think the investment is there and ready to go,” Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, said in response to a question about whether the White House should provide additional funding to build more transmission lines. Hoeven was speaking Thursday at the same electric grid conference. A member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Hoeven supports funding for more lines, along with responsible regulation.
However, the Republican senator demurred when the moderator suggested Perry’s consideration of the Defense Production Act was akin to nationalization power plants.
“In general, I don’t favor nationalizing anything,” Hoeven said but added he’s supportive of “all forms” of energy. He was optimistic about a comprehensive energy bill in Congress getting passed this session.
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