President Donald Trump and Republican political leaders spent close to eight years accusing the Obama administration of picking winners and losers in the energy sector, but Trump's order to the Energy Department last week to prop up failing coal and nuclear power plants does exactly what he vilified – and proposes the opposite of what's needed to best safeguard the nation's vulnerable electric grid, experts say.
Citing national security and defense concerns caused by the "rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation's energy mix," Trump on Friday directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry "to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources."
The administration referred to coal and nuclear plants as "fuel-secure," because they can house their fuel supplies on site, rather than relying on pipelines like natural gas plants.
Much remains unclear about the proposal, including how it will be implemented and how many plants it will seek to prop up. However, it encountered swift opposition from a broad range of energy experts, industry executives and advocates from across the spectrum. It's also expected to face legal challenges in federal court, particularly from natural gas and renewables companies, which compete with coal and nuclear plants for market share.
Notably, a dispersed electric grid – one that relies on a diverse array of wind and solar power, in addition to natural gas, hydropower and, perhaps one day, advanced nuclear – is widely seen as far more resilient to attack or accident than one that depends on large, centralized power resources such as coal or large-scale nuclear.
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