November 30, 2022

Trump’s own energy commission just short-circuited his planned handouts to the coal industry

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A Trump administration proposal pushed by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would have blatantly favored the coal and nuclear power industries over other forms of energy, was rejected today by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). 


Even though four of the five members on the commission – including three Republicans – were appointed by Trump, they turned thumbs down on the proposal which would have propped up nuclear and coal providers who are struggling in competitive electricity markets.

Perry claimed that by mandating plants have a 90-day supply of fuel on hand, was needed to ensure the reliability of the electrical system no matter what the weather.

However, critics said in reality it just was a way to favor coal and nuclear power over renewable energy or natural gas. 

If Perry’s proposal passed it would have reversed efforts by federal regulations dating back to the 1980s to increase the balance of competitive energy markets and help keep prices low.

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If passed it would have been a boon for a few coal and nuclear companies like the coal mining firm Murray Energy.

FERC did agree to open an inquiry into how to ensure the resilience of energy plants, and gave electricity grid operators two months to respond with comments and ideas.

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Perry tried to paint it as a victory because he said his efforts fostered a discussion of the need to ensure reliable sources of energy, but almost everyone else saw it as “a setback for the administration,” as The Washington Post put it.

“This outright rejection of subsidies for coal and nuclear shows that Commissioners of both parties have little interest in manipulating electricity markets in favor of any fuel source,” Paul Bledsoe, a former consultant for the Energy Department under President Obama told The Washington Post. 

“The FERC correctly found that the Department of Energy’s proposal violated the basic requirements of the Federal Power Act,” said John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project Coalition.

“Secretary Perry’s plan would have subsidized coal and nuclear plants with a 90-day fuel supply,” adds Moore, “yet Perry never explained why those plants were inherently more reliable or resilient.”

“This is really FERC saying that any change we make to the grid is going to be grounded in fact,” Greg Wetstone, president of the American Council in Renewable Energy told the Post. 

“This is shifting to a real world process based on what’s actually happening to the nation’s grid,” adds Wetstone, “and that’s great news for renewable energy.”

Former Texas Governor Perry, who has a reputation for not being very bright, was the messenger for Trump in an effort to pay off his backers in the coal and nuclear sector, while hurting efforts to grow renewable energy source, many of which are non-polluting, available domestically and less costly.

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“The decision is a setback for President Donald Trump’s efforts to prop up the ailing coal-fired plans and nuclear power stations,” reports CNBC, “as well as the mining industry.”

Since he took office promising to bring back coal, while denying there is a global climate crisis, Trump has engineered a series of regressive, expensive and ultimately foolish rules and changes to try and make his fake views seem like a real-world solution.

This time even other Republicans saw through his efforts to help his friends by taking money out of the pockets of consumers while propping up a failing industry and beating down the alternatives that the rest of the world have acknowledged are the future. 

So we can safely say for the moment to Trump and Perry, FERC you.


Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.

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