[personal profile] osewalrus
I must admit, this is a level of outright brazen crony capitalism I never imagined possible. It is a whole new level of chutzpah.

For those not clicking through -- Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has invoked a little-used provision of the Energy Act where the Secretary of Energy gets to "propose" a rule to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC is an independent federal agency, but under the Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977, FERC nominally reports to the Secretary of the DOE and the Sec. may "propose" measures for FERC to consider. Sec. Perry appears to think that means dictating a result to FERC, and I am not familiar enough with the relevant provision to know if that's in fact how this works or if FERC needs to actually vote it out by a majority or what.

The proposal for consideration goes like this.

1. Lots of coal fired power plants and nuclear power plants are closing. 

2.Sure, the reason they are closing is because cleaner fuels like natural gas are ridiculously cheaper, and because renewables make up an increasing portion of the electric grid, so that no one wants to operate these very old and inefficient power plants. The market does not support them. They can't make electricity as efficiently, and because most electricity is actually sold wholesale via market mechanisms, it means that folks with cheaper fuels and more efficient plants (that have lower operating costs) are able to sell their electricity cheaper. This is more attractive to the distributors who sell it to residential and business customers, so they buy the cheaper power from these more modern, cleaner plants. And coal and nuclear plants gradually shut down.

Unmentioned, this has a very negative impact on the price of coal. As a result, coal mines become much less profitable. So they close. No matter how many safety regs and environmental regs you repeal and sacrifice to the Gods of the Marketplace, coal ain't coming back. The gods of the marketplace are cruel and capricious that way.

3. In theory, if you believe in the power of unregulated markets, this is fine. But Secretary Perry sees this as a tremendous market failure.

4. Why? Because Trump cannot keep his promise to his buddies to bring back coal. if we don't have a diversified mix of power plants, then we risk a serious disruption to the energy grid in the event of an unanticipated long-term shortage. Mind you, some would argue that natural gas, solar, wind and other cleaner fuels favored by the market (like biodiesel) provide us with diversity. But that would be wrong. Why? Because they are not coal and uranium. These fuels are abundant and locally produced in artisanal mines in key swing states. That is the kind of fuel diversity we need as a nation!

So we have a market failure, because the free market price fails to factor in the cost of reliability. That is to say, of having lots of functioning coal-fired plants and nuclear plants with lots of fuel on hand in case we have an emergency that disrupts fuel for an extended period of time.

5. Fortunately, Secretary Perry has a solution. FERC can require that coal-fired and nuclear power generators buy a 90-day inventory and keep that on hand in case we need it. That is to say, we should force these companies to literally buy tons of coal and uranium to store indefinitely.

Now this is expensive, not merely because you have to buy the 90-day reserve. You also have to store the reserve. I am sure there is absolutely no security concern with requiring nuclear power plants to buy literally tons of enriched, fuel grade uranium that could be converted into weapons grade uranium and leave it sitting around. I'm also sure there is no possible environmental problem from requiring companies to buy and store literally tons of highly toxic material and store them someplace where they can access them easily when needed -- assuming they are ever needed.

This does not, of course, guarantee that these power plants would be profitable. Just the opposite! Fortunately, Secretary Perry is smart enough to have figured that out, which takes us to the next part of the proposal.

6. FERC will figure out a way to make all electric producers who aren't coal or nuclear generated pay to subsidize their rivals so that the "value of reliability" can be factored into the price. But don't worry, these generators will be able to pass the cost on to the ultimate consumers. i.e. you.

So, to summarize, Trump Administration proposes a rule to make power plants buy coal and uranium they don't want, and to store a 90 day supply of it on hand. The rule will require the rest of the power industry to subsidize coal-fired plants and nuclear plants. This will raise everyone's rates, as well as create a whole new set of security problems and environmental problems. Everybody wins! Assuming "Everybody" means coal companies, uranium miners, and a few thousand coal miners who will get to keep their jobs longer until they die of Black Lung or a mine collapse because we also repealed all the safety regulations.

[personal profile] osewalrus
Color of Change and other civil rights orgs are mad at Facebook.

Meanwhile, conservatives are mad at YouTube:

This is why I like mandatory common carriage.

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