May 7, 2018 Read More →

Editorial: U.S. Coal Bailout Isn’t in the National Interest

St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

President Donald Trump has had some trouble with his promise to “end the war on beautiful, clean coal.” Coal companies are doing well, but only about 600 of the 42,000 miners who lost their jobs between 2012 and 2016 have gone back to work, government statistics show. Trump has falsely claimed that 45,000 mining jobs have been restored.

Lying didn’t work, so now the administration is considering direct taxpayer subsidies to the coal industry, and possibly the nuclear power industry. Bloomberg News reports the president may invoke the Defense Production Act of 1950, declaring that national security requires nationalizing the energy industry. Here’s an idea that tree-hugging liberals and free-market conservatives can all hate.

The Defense Production Act was passed in 1950, at the outset of the Korean War, to give the president permission to seize vital industries in wartime—something presidents had done without permission during both world wars. The act has been invoked several times since 1950 for short-term emergencies. During the oil crisis that followed the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-80, the act was amended to include “energy” as a “strategic and critical material.”

But the United States isn’t at war today, not in any sense that would disrupt energy supplies. Thanks to shale oil and gas, and to the growing use of wind and solar power, the nation has a surplus of generating capacity. As older coal-fired and nuclear generating stations are taken out of service, new gas-fired plants and alternative energy sources have more than replaced their capacity. So if Trump were to declare that national security requires that taxpayers prop up coal-fired plants, coal mines and older nuclear stations, it would be for political reasons, not because of any threat to national security. Indeed, the opposite is the case. The Pentagon says that global warming—to which atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning coal is a major contributor—is a major security concern.

Coal is not in trouble because of government regulation but because of environmental and economic factors inherent in the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Any bailout would be money up in smoke.

More: Editorial: Struggling Coal Companies Are Not A National Security Issue

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