Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is pissing the Left off again, and this time, it’s not with pronouncements about Social Security being a Ponzi Scheme, or by shooting rogue coyotes while jogging.
Perry has got liberals’ panties in a bunch because he’s proposing a reversal of Obama-era energy policies that gave major preference to renewables, and to a lesser extent natural gas, over nuclear and coal—and ironically, that has liberals screaming “cronyism.”
Green energy champions Energy Innovation and the Climate Policy Initiative are claiming that five companies would get 90 percent of the benefit to nuclear as a sector, and a further five companies would get 80 percent of the benefit to the coal sector envisioned by the Perry plan. A specific focus of green attacks has been on the outsized benefit allegedly accruing to Murray Energy, whose head was a big backer of President Trump against Hillary Clinton.
But dig deeper into the data and it’s no surprise why a plan aimed at bolstering nuclear and coal to better shore up America’s grid in the event of natural disasters like the spate of hurricanes and wildfires seen this summer would benefit so few companies.
Energy and environmental regulation under President Obama so heavily preferred solar, wind and to some extent natural gas (whose use as a fuel was bolstered by both Obama’s Clean Power Plan and increased fracking, which dropped natural gas prices) that much of the coal and nuclear sector has ceased to exist.
In the Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania region, where a grid operator especially targeted by the Perry plan functions, Murray Energy just happens to be among a handful of big mining companies still alive.
Few nuclear operators remain active in the targeted region, either, and nuclear plant closures are planned.
This makes electricity generation in the area in the event of a natural disaster, major cold snap, or terrorist attack a concern because natural gas has proved a poor provider of affordable, reliable electricity in those types of situations, as witnessed during the Polar Vortex that engulfed the Northeastern U.S. several years ago. In that instance, nuclear power plants came to the rescue, providing electricity to a region that had overwhelmingly shifted to natural gas and renewables.
According to one energy industry insider, plants in the Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania region that are either closing or at risk include:
- FirstEnergy’s David-Besse, Perry and Beaver Valley plants
- Exelon’s Oyster Creek plant
- Exelon’s Three Mile Island plant
- NRG’s Will County Unit 4
- NRG’s Homer City plant
- Dayton Power & Light’s J.M. Stuart and Killen Station Unit 2 plants
- Westmoreland Partners’ Roanoke Valley plant
- PSEG’s Mercer plant
- FirstEnergy’s Sammis plant
- FirstEnergy’s Bruce Mansfield plant
Many of the workers at these facilities typify Trump voters, as a whole; they are white, working-class, better-paid than many working class Americans but suffering economic anxiety thanks to job-threatening shifts in the energy sector in part prompted by government regulation, and in the case of nuclear, inaction and gridlock.
Among those most vigorously opposing the Perry plan is New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.
Politico reports that “Richard Kauffman, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top energy adviser, warned that Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s push to bolster coal and nuclear power plants might force the state to keep its two remaining coal plants open and hamper its ability to hit its ambitious climate goals.”
Ironically, New York has taken action to preserve its nuclear power plants, one of which was a major provider of electricity to the Northeast during the Polar Vortex when natural gas supplies proved inadequate.
Cuomo is widely considered a likely contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
Also attacking the plan are the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, all defenders of the Obama administration’s energy and environmental policy, which shifted power production to renewables and natural gas and which Perry plan defenders claim created the grid issues the plan seeks to resolve in the first place.