The bottom line on the Energy Department’s grid study

❝ The Energy Department published its long-delayed but much-anticipated report on whether the U.S. electric grid can handle the retirement of aging coal-fired and nuclear power plants.

The big questions the grid study sought to answer were these: What is driving the closures of those power plants? And what should be done about it?

❝ The report’s answer to that first question is notable in that it’s already widely known: The No. 1 reason coal and nuclear power plants are closing is that they are being priced out of the electricity market by an abundance of cheap natural gas pumped from hydraulic fracturing projects that have come online over the past decade.

“The biggest contributor to coal and nuclear plant retirements has been the advantaged economics of natural gas-fired generation,” the study states…

That is the result of a low commodity price for natural gas. Short-term thinking at best. Globally, the economics of scale continue to move the advantages of solar and wind-powered electricity.

❝ The study’s policy recommendations include various measures that would likely have the effect of boosting coal and nuclear power. They include requests that:

the Environmental Protection Agency ease permitting requirements for new investments at coal-fired plants

the Nuclear Regulatory Commission do the same with regard to safety requirements

and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission compensate grid participants that help keep power reliable.

What happens now? The follow-through, if any, on these policy recommendations will largely happen outside the Energy Department…

The Republican Party and the Fake President are incapable of pushing through uneconomic plans supporting failing methodology. Certainly not in a timely fashion. I’d rather see pressure put on Democrats and independents, conservative and liberal, to move this nation forward in step with modern science towards energy independence from fossil fuels. Though I’ve been an advocate for nuclear power for decades, the sum of costs for that endeavor has increased well beyond anything based on solar or wind energy. Reasonable economics moved my decision to end support for that alternative years ago.

What sensible folks need to do is fight for the range of reforms, simple and complex, needed to restore democratic, science-based progress to our energy grid. The United States is barely in a position to provide leadership on this question to anyone. The next couple of years will be critical to retaining a voice in the process of revising global power output. That will happen with or without participation by the United States.

Support for little minds in a political movement led by bigotry and ignorance will leave this nation with a mediocre economy and a second-class future.

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