The Trump Administration is taking unprecedented steps to bail out failing nuclear and coal power plants, effectively nationalizing the American energy market with potentially drastic consequences for the renewable energy industry and the American consumer. According to an updated report from the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), the Trump Administration’s plan could result in artificially high electricity prices. The planned subsidies for nuclear power plants alone could increase the overall cost of electricity in the U.S. by up to $17 billion each year; the subsidies for coal plants would add even more. This skewing of the American energy market, which has recently seen significant progress made by wind and solar energy, could also result in the decline of renewable energy in the U.S.
“By pushing for a nationwide bailout for nuclear power and coal, the Trump administration is rushing headlong into an energy buzz saw, and they don’t even seem to know it,” NIRS executive director Tim Judson said in a statement. It should come as no surprise to those who have followed President Trump that he would take steps to support coal and nuclear power at the expense of renewable energy. What is surprising is the heavy-handedness with which his administration is attempting to directly subsidize failing businesses, thereby ignoring the Republican Party’s long-held belief in the supremacy of a market free from government intrusion. By doing so, Trump could decimate the renewable energy industry, which employs more American workers than coal and nuclear combined.
The administration claims that it must act to save failing coal and nuclear plants in the interest of national security. Not everyone is buying that excuse. “The Administration’s warnings of dire effects from power shortages caused by shortages of reliable and resilient generation are contradicted by all of the bodies with actual responsibility for assuring adequate supplies,” said former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Peter A. Bradford. “There are no state or federal energy regulators petitioning DOE for these measures. Indeed, those who have spoken clearly have said that such steps are unnecessary. … As was said in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the facts are being fixed around the desired end result.”
In order to enact its bailout policies, the Trump Administration has three options: Congressional action, review and approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or a formal National Security Council assessment. While the bailouts are likely to be delayed for the foreseeable future, if they even occur, the Trump Administration’s decision to subsidize failing power plants at the expense of American industry and consumer well-being makes its priorities quite clear.