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December 2017 energy news: Bail out coal, let oil and gas keep releasing methane

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry is proposing a measure to subsidize power plants that operate with a 90-day backup fuel supply on site — that is, coal-fired plants, since renewable energy and natural gas pipelines cannot work that way — even though not even 1 percent of 1 percent of recent power failures were due to a lack of supply. According to a New York Times editorial on Dec. 7, "the primary aim here is to bolster the coal industry, which President Trump embraced unreservedly on the campaign trail and whose moguls embraced him right back," and the initiative would likely cause consumer electricity prices to rise by up to $11 billion "for no discernible public benefit." David Roberts wrote for Vox that this is essentially a bailout of the coal industry, as Trump has made it Perry's job "to figure out a way to stop so many coal-fired power plants from closing." The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) needs to vote on the measure by early January.

"This proposal has been so poorly thought out that it has made odd bedfellows of groups that are often on opposing sides of big policy debates. The oil and gas industry, for instance, has teamed up with renewable energy and environmental groups to fight it. Eight former FERC commissioners from both parties have sent a letter opposing the plan, arguing that it 'would be a significant step backward from the commission’s long and bipartisan evolution to transparent, open, competitive wholesale markets.'"

In a separate move, the administration wants to allow oil and gas companies to continue to release methane at current levels. In December 2017,

"the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which works under Secretary Ryan Zinke at the Interior Department, delayed the implementation of a rule requiring oil and gas companies drilling on federally owned lands to curtail the waste of methane by releasing it in the air. The rationale for delaying the implementation of the rule until January 2019 was that the regulation "may be rescinded or significantly revised in the near future," a hint that Zinke would like to dump it entirely."

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