(credit: Matt Hintsa)

Today, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry directed the nation’s federal grid regulator to create rules favoring coal, hydroelectric, and nuclear generators. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) (PDF) stated that the Federal Energy Regulatory Council (FERC) must order grid operators to increase how they value “reliability and resilience attributes” in energy generation.

Although no specific electricity sources were mentioned as beneficiaries of the rule, generating units that can hold a 90-day supply of fuel on site would be favored. Coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric power plants fit the bill, and variably-generating renewable resources like wind and solar would be left out of whatever compensation scheme comes out of FERC's rulemaking process.

Promoting coal has been a primary goal for the new Trump Administration, echoed fervently by Perry, a former Texas governor with ties to the fossil fuel industry. Although burning coal is one of the most polluting sources of electricity used in the US, and the shale boom has made cheap and cleaner-burning natural gas a popular alternative, the shift away from coal has been resisted by political forces. Trump himself has called climate change a “hoax,” and although Perry has been somewhat more deliberate in choosing his words since taking the secretary's office, he's also called into question the anthropogenic nature of climate change despite exhaustive evidence to support human-caused warming.

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