DURING THE 2016 campaign, Donald Trump vowed repeatedly to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C. Nearly a year into his term, it's clear the president instead intends to flood the bog with energy mandates and subsidies.
In October, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to pour funds into conventional coal-fired and nuclear electricity generation plants. Perry argued the government needs to prop up these money losers in order to stabilize the power grid. As R Street Institute energy analyst William Murray points out, this amounts to a "creative" ploy "to fulfill promises made directly by President Donald Trump to coal mine owners during the election campaign, even at the cost of free markets--a supposed core belief among Republicans and conservatives of all stripes."
Why are coal-fired plants being shuttered? A June 2017 National Bureau of Economic Research study estimates that the "declining price of natural gas relative to coal, on an energy-adjusted basis, explains 92 percent" of reduced production. Furthermore, Steve Huntoon, a former president of the Energy Bar Association, notes in the trade publication RTO Insider that natural gas power plants are more reliable than coal-fired generators with respect to ensuring grid resilience.
Coal isn't the only energy source favored by the president. During the campaign, he frequently assured Midwestern voters of his support for ethanol mandates. And in November, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt bowed to corn-state senators' demands and approved a final rule that continues the Renewable Fuel Standard, by requiring refiners to blend 19.24 billion gallons of biofuels into the nation's fuel supply in...