Hit & Run

A Presidential Tweet Can't Stop the TVA from Shuttering Two Coal-Fired Generation Plants

So far, Trump's efforts to subsidize his coal cronies have failed.


Michael Brochstein/Zuma Press/Newscom

When President Donald Trump heard this week that the Tennesee Valley Authority's board of directors was preparing to vote on closing down two aging coal-fired electricity generation plants, he tweeted: "Coal is an important part of our electricity generation mix and @TVAnews should give serious consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants, like Paradise #3 in Kentucky!"

As it happens, that plant gets most of its coal from Murray Energy, whose CEO Robert Murray is a Trump supporter, according to Bloomberg News. His company donated $1 million to a political action committee that supported Trump-friendly candidates in the 2018 election. That could just be a coincidence.

Meanwhile, Sen. Micth McConnell (R–Ky.) released a video urging the TVA to keep the Paradise plant open. In the video, McConnell urges the board to consider the hundreds of jobs that depend on the plants and to delay its vote until two additional members have been appointed. He also notes, "In the Senate I championed efforts to end President Obama's War on Coal."

But the real war on coal is being fought in the marketplace, where coal for electricity generation is being outcompeted by abundant and cheap supplies of fracked natural gas. A 2017 National Bureau of Economic Research study calculated that the "declining price of natural gas relative to coal, on an energy-adjusted basis, explains 92 percent of the decline in coal production."

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported in December that U.S. coal consumption in 2018 was expected to be the lowest in 39 years. This largely because power generators have been shifting to natural gas and renewable energy sources.


As a consequence, the EIA noted, "In 2007, coal-fired capacity in the United States totaled 313 gigawatts (GW) across 1,470 generators. By the end of 2017, 529 of those generators, with a total capacity of 55 GW, had retired. So far in 2018, 11 GW of coal-fired generating capacity has retired through September, and another 3 GW are expected to retire in the final three months of the year."


The TVA's chief financial officer, John M. Thomas III, has said that closing the two plants would save ratepayers $320 million without affecting the reliability and resilience of the agency's fleet. In addition, both plants would require about $1.3 billion in capital investments to keep them operating. And even if two Trump toadies had already appointed to the board, the 6–3 vote would still have shuttered both the Paradise and Bull Run plants.

So the plants are closing, despite the president's tweeting. So far, the Trump administration's economically insane proposals to subsidize his cronies in the coal industry have been successfully opposed.

NEXT: Alita: Battle Angel Is A Movie About Our Post-Human Future—and Proof It's Already Here

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  1. Why is nuclear so stable at 20% of supply? Oh yeah, because ignorant people are afraid of it for no rational reason and won't let anyone build new reactors. It's ironic that the safest form of energy is believed to be the most dangerous.

    1. The SAFEST form of energy would be Spent Fuel Salt reactors - using up our supply of hazardous nuclear waste (which has 90% of it's heat/power generating potential still left) while being incapable of meltdown

        1. Cheaper than trying to generate the same amount of energy with solar

          1. solar energy is the future

    2. I suggest you watch a movie called The China Syndrome - the nuclear threat is real.

      1. I hate documentaries.

      2. Sarcasm?

        Just in case it's not, you do realize that was fiction, right? Even assuming that you thought it was a documentary, the fact that nuclear has some risks does not change the fact that ever other form of energy production also has risks. In aggregate and after accounting for the mitigations that are actually in place across the various forms, the data do indeed lead to the conclusion that nuclear is, if not the safest, certainly one of the safest forms of energy production.

  2. Coalnies?

  3. Trump's efforts to subsidize his coal cronies have failed... So far, the Trump administration's economically insane proposals to subsidize his cronies in the coal industry have been successfully opposed.

    Oh look, Suderman and Shikha have competition for most dishonest Reason commentator. From his own fucking link he states that the subsidy was Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia's "bright idea", and that "Justice's proposal to subsidize coal mining in his state is just another such impediment. Surely President Trump is not crazy enough to propose a federal coal subsidy, right?"
    And now for this article he's pretending it was Trump's.

    Fucking dishonest idiocy.

  4. Trump did about all that he could do but he cannot turn around the economics of coal vs natural gas. I see no problem for them power companies changing form coal to natural gas because of economics, I do when the government forces a change that will cost more.

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  6. This is a non story. Of course Trump is trying to show his base that he supports them. And part of that strategy is him singing about coal. Coal ?-> MAGA! He has no strategy when it comes to our country's energy future, and now the Democrats are talking about the New Green Deal, which is a strategy, but happens to be insane. Which is worse? By the way, I do believe in global climate change. Just check the sea level rise data if you don't and study Geology. I think in 500 years, a blink in the eye of geologic time, we will have significantly higher sea levels, and we do not want too much of that!! So I am all for slowly and steadily investing in Green technologies. However, the only non carbon source of energy sufficient to meet demand is nuclear. I know nuclear can have serious downsides, I recommend everyone watch the NOVA special on the Fukushima nuclear disaster, or the one where they are still trying to clean up Chernobyl. Watch the China Syndrome too! Nuclear power is tricky!! But we can do this.

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