Should America Subsidize Coal & Nuclear Power?

On June 1, 2018, President Donald Trump sent Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry a directive to take immediate action to bolster coal and nuclear power plants. Secretary Perry is now considering a plan that would direct regional transmission operators to buy power from coal and nuclear plants for two years to ensure grid reliability and maximize domestic energy supplies.

Kevin McIntyre, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) disagrees with President Trump’s concerns about the United States coal and nuclear industries. Kevin McIntyre, a Republican has stated that the struggles of the coal and nuclear industries present no immediate calamity or threat to America’s power grid. Four other FERC commissioners, Republican and Democrat believe there is no immediate threat to the grid. The FERC is of the opinion that existing power sources, including natural gas and renewable energy are sufficient to satisfy America’s energy needs.

Who is correct? President Trump is correct that coal-fueled power plants have been steadily closing over the past decade. Eight nuclear power plants are scheduled to close by 2025 and there are no firm plans for new nuclear power plants in the United States. Utilities across the United States are moving away from coal-fuel and nuclear energy. Why? Nuclear power is the most expensive source of electricity in the United States at approximately 35 cents per kWh. Nuclear power doesn’t generate greenhouse gases, but disposal of nuclear waste is still an issue. Coal generates significant greenhouse gases and is more expensive than natural gas, hydropower, wind and solar.

Electricity from natural gas costs approximately 4 cents per kWh. Electricity from hydroelectric, wind and solar costs approximately 5 cents to 7 cents per kWh, depending on the region of the country. Natural gas generates 30% to 40% less greenhouse gases than coal. Hydropower, wind and solar generate virtually no greenhouse gases.

Is there a threat to America’s power grid? In my opinion, the way to solve this question is for the FERC to do a comprehensive energy reliability study, complete with recommendations. The study could then be used to develop America’s first energy policy, since World War II.

In my opinion, I believe there may be regions that may have cracks in their power grid. I also believe the study will highlight the importance of renewable energy in providing America with sustainable, reliable, cost effective energy that would pollute our environment.

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