Trump eyes national security powers to prop up coal & nuclear power
|Emily J Gertz||May 17, 2018|
Those who've so far responded to my question, "how are you staying hopeful in our bad news era," have to a person recommended therapeutic drinking.
"The only true answer is gallow’s humor and alcohol, in about equal proportions," ran one representative email.
This advice resonated, as I regularly took both sides of it for the first year of the Trump administration. Lately, though, producing this newsletter each week has raised my spirits — which in turn curbs my yearning for vodka on the rocks. In no small part that's because of the suggestions, encouragement, story tips and retweets that you all have been sending my way.
So thanks for subscribing, sharing (de)regulation nation with your colleagues and friends, and letting me know what you think. It's great knowing we're all in this together.
bad: Trump eyes national security justifications to keep coal-fired power plants alive
As a politician, Donald Trump has defined himself as an advocate of coal-fired power, while ignoring the significant climate and health drawbacks of burning coal.
But cheaper forms of energy are gradually driving both coal and nuclear power out of business.
So Trump may use one or more national security mechanisms to keep coal and nuclear online.
Under the Defense Production Act of 1950, for example, Trump could order utilities and industry to make power purchase agreements with coal and nuclear power producers.
In response, a somewhat strange-bedfellows alliance of natural gas and renewable energy proponents, including the American Wind Energy Association and the American Petroleum Institute, are urging Energy Secretary Rick Perry not to game the energy market in coal and nuclear's favor.
Here's more context:
Abundant low-cost natural gas (mined via hydrofracking) is arguably the main driver of the weakened market for coal and nuclear power.
Rising energy efficiency, fast-dropping costs for solar and wind, and state-level incentives for curbing climate-warming pollution in coal's case (see the east coast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, for example) are contributing, too.
Some climate advocates argue that natural gas is a good "bridge fuel" to a low- or no-carbon economy, since it creates much less carbon pollution than coal.
Others point to leaking gas pipelines, and the significant air pollution and other environmental damages fracking can cause, to argue for leapfrogging over natural gas to all-renewable energy.
better: Majority of American adults are worried about global warming
Over half of all Americans between 18 and "55 or older" years old worry "a great deal/fair amount" about climate change.
The level of concern varies by age groups, with big climate worries acknowledge by:
70 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds
63 percent of 35-to-54-year-olds
56 percent of people 55 and older
The younger cohorts were also more likely to worry that climate change will create serious threats within their lifetimes
My initial thought? Perhaps lawmakers, business leaders and other public figures who believe (or say they believe) sticking their necks out on rational climate policies and investments would damage their careers should dig into these polling data.
Somewhat relatedly: Even in deeply Republican Alaska, lawmakers are working on a state plan to fight climate change.
Why? Because they cannot ignore its real-time effects on infrastructure and communities:
Nearly three dozen cities and towns that may be forced to relocate as melting permafrost and disappearing sea ice (which used to protect the coastline from destructive storms and waves) make their current locations untenable.
good: Big investors tell Big Oil and banks to reject Arctic Refuge drilling
Most of the national news media barely noticed when the GOP majority in Congress opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development, by tacking a rider onto the 2017 tax bill.
But institutional investors worth $2.52 trillion in assets have noticed.
This group of investors, which include pension funds, religious endowments, and charities, are now warning fossil fuel firms and the banks that fund them off Arctic Refuge drilling.
Expensive drilling projects in northeastern Alaska's remote, rugged wilderness would be at a high risk of losing money in the future, the investors contend, as the warming world transitions to a minimal-carbon economy.
The investors also warn the firms of "enormous reputational risk and public backlash. Their brands would be associated with destroying pristine wilderness, contributing to the climate crisis, and trampling on human rights."
The Indigenous Gwich'in of Alaska joined the investors, saying "the 19 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ... wilderness supports the Porcupine caribou herd and, in turn, the Gwich’in people. The Arctic Refuge also protects more abundant and diverse wildlife than any other conservation area in the five nation circumpolar north, including rare musk oxen, denning polar bears, and millions of migratory birds that nest or stage in the Refuge before traveling through every U.S. state and five continents."
great: Reporters traveling West Virginia to find stories of living with a natural gas boom
Award-winning coal industry reporter Ken Ward, of the Charleston, West Virginia Gazette-Mail newspaper, is working with the non-profit investigative outfit ProPublica to tell local and regional stories of "how coal and natural gas — and the influences surrounding them —are both helping and hampering the state's economic transition."
As part of the project, Ward and reporter Beena Raghavendran will travel around West Virginia, talk to residents, and report how the combined forces of policy, politics, new technologies, market economics and more are affecting their daily lives.
Are you a West Virginian? They'd like your input on where to go, who to talk with, and "the best ways to cover Appalachia."
Coal Tattoo, Ken Ward's blog on West Virginia, coal and climate change