DENIED A BAILOUT, EXECUTIVE PITCHES FIT
Posted January 11, 2018 8:01 p.m. EST
Politics has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor business a fury like a CEO scorned.
With apologies to English playwright William Congreve, a modification of his most famous phrase applies to Robert Murray, CEO of Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp., after he failed to obtain a taxpayer bailout for the doomed coal industry.
He called a unanimous decision by President Donald Trump's appointees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject subsidies for old coal plants "a bureaucratic cop-out."
"While FERC commissioners sit on their hands and refuse to take the action directed by Energy Secretary Rick Perry and President Donald Trump, the decommissioning of more coal-fired and nuclear plants could result, further jeopardizing the reliability, resiliency and security of America's electric power grids," Murray said.
"If it were not for the electricity generated by our nation's coal-fired and nuclear power plants, we would be experiencing massive brownouts and blackouts in this country," he added.
Wrong, wrong and wrong again.
Murray, who runs the largest privately owned coal company in the country, has every right to feel disappointed. He is Trump's friend and a huge supporter during the campaign. He convinced Trump to make coal miners a priority, along with coal mines and coal-burning power plants.
All of the political pull in the world, though, couldn't blind Trump's five FERC commissioners to the reality that burning coal is not only a horrible way to make electricity, but not economically viable in the age of cheap natural gas, competitive renewable sources and American's desire to have children without asthma.
In his statement, Commissioner Richard Glick said that "if a threat to grid resilience exists, the threat lies mostly with the transmission and distribution systems, where virtually all significant disruptions occur."
Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur's statement read: "In effect, (the proposed subsidy) sought to freeze yesterday's resources in place indefinitely, rather than adapting resilience to the resources that the market is selecting today or toward which it is trending in the future. I believe the commission should continue to focus its efforts not on slowing the transition from the past but on easing the transition to the future."
Commissioner Neil Chatterjee voiced support for the competitive electricity market and said subsidies should be used "only as a last resort."
Contrary to what Murray said in his tantrum, every grid operator in the country said they did not need to prop up coal to supply reliable power to the country. The vast majority of electricity generators, even those with coal-fired power plants, opposed subsidies as a slippery slope back to the bad old days when politicians decided who would generate electricity, and how much consumers would pay for it.
The Washington Post reported last year on how Murray demanded that Trump rig the electricity market to favor coal and nuclear power, and how Murray convinced Perry to carry his proposal to FERC. Clearly, this move will anger Trump voters, but FERC commissioners made their decision based on the facts.
The commissioners proved the value of having an independent commission to stop just this kind of crony capitalism. We should celebrate the bureaucrats who did their job under what must have been tremendous pressure, because they saved consumers $10.6 billion in needless subsidies for coal companies.