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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What Killed Trump's Cockamamie Coal Plan/Bloomberg

Whatever killed it, thank, God it died.  There's no economic or social reason to bring back coal as a large-scale producer of electricity.  

Rick Perry's idea to prop up dirty and unsafe energy sources was reviled by just about everyone -- even the president's appointees.

President Donald Trump promised to bring back coal. In a ham-handed attempt to make his boss happy, Energy Secretary Rick Perry in September proposed forcing electrical utilities to heavily subsidize coal and nuclear plants in the name of ensuring a "reliable, resilient energy grid."

Thanks to a quirk of legislative history, though, the Department of Energy can't just issue such a regulation on its own. When Congress established the department in 1977in the wake of the first oil crisis, it ensured that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the successor to the Federal Power Commission it had created in 1920 and laden with new responsibilities several times since, would continue to set rules for electricity generation, among other things.

This is how it came to pass that on Monday, the five members of the FERC -- four of them appointed by Trump! -- effectively told Perry to take his Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and shove it. The commission said it will "remain vigilant with respect to resilience challenges," but that Perry's approach wasn't compatible with the competitive electricity markets that have evolved under FERC guidance over the past two decades.
This leads to a couple of thoughts:
  1. We have a weird system of government!
  2. That weird system seems to have saved us from a really dumb idea.
There's been a lot written over the past few years (a little bit of it by me) about how the regulatory state in the U.S. has grown so powerful that elected officials, especially members of Congress, find it increasingly hard to shape policy. Here we have a case where one group of presidential appointees thwarted the plans of a more prominent but less expert presidential appointee. Congress played a supporting role, with Democrats roundly condemning the Perry proposal and some Republicans asking skeptical questions. One can probably assume that the bureaucrats at both the Energy Department and FERC were also not fans of the proposal. And one can definitely assume that electrical utilities and energy producers were, with a few exceptions, deeply unhappy about it.
So it wasn't exactly as former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski described it:

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