This post was updated on June 14, 2017.
You’re already well aware of the Trump administration’s blitzkrieg against America’s bedrock environmental laws. Now, get ready for Energy Secretary Rick Perry to weigh in.
Within days, the former Texas governor is expected to release the results from a 60-day “study” he commissioned to determine whether renewables policies and regulations have led to the premature retirement of coal or nuclear plants.
Like many others in the clean energy business, I’m concerned this so-called study is an attempt to cripple clean energy progress in favor of the administration’s broader pro-coal agenda. You don’t have to be a DOE rocket scientist to put the pieces together.
Here are five reasons Perry’s study serves a purpose other than to find facts:
1. Not how real studies are done
First off, 60 days is barely enough time to fill job vacancies in a new administration, much less sufficient to conduct a thorough analysis of America’s complex energy policies.
This study is not about evidence or science, but about reinforcing Trump’s attack against America’s rapidly growing clean energy economy – and possibly about undermining state renewable energy portfolios.
2. Grid reliability concerns a non-issue
Perry’s electric grid study has nothing to do with reliability of critical energy services. The “grid reliability” angle has been studied extensively by grid operators and government agencies around the country, and reliability has actually been strengthened with less coal and more efficiency and renewables.
Cleaner and more diverse energy sources such as wind, solar, demand response and natural gas are seamlessly taking coal’s place.
How? Remarkable advances in energy storage and management, sensors, smart meters and telecommunications have made the grid more flexible and nimble while maintaining reliability.
It’s telling that Perry used the same argument about grid reliability a decade ago when he tried to fast-track new coal plants in Texas. Of course, Texas went on to become the nation’s largest producer of wind energy – in spite of Perry.
3. Ex-industry lobbyist will lead study
Consider Perry’s staff at the DOE and what it says about the secretary’s agenda. It’s a who’s who of the fossil fuel industry lobby.
His Chief of Staff Brian McCormack, who will manage the grid reliability study, came to the DOE from the Edison Electric Institute – the lobby group for utilities and a fierce opponent of renewable energy.
4. National security “risk” a well-timed fable
Perry has argued, without any evidence, that some state policies that encourage fuels other than coal could be a national security risk and should therefore be studied. Scott Pruitt, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief, recently seconded this fable.
Suggesting that coal makes America safer may look like a clever tactic. The problem is, it just isn’t true.
This tack also represents a 180 for Perry and Pruitt who, until recently, served as top state officials who ferociously attacked the federal government, citing state sovereignty. My guess: McCormack will find a way to work national security into DOE’s grid study.
5. Study is part of a bigger, darker scheme
Today, there are more than 3 million clean energy jobs in America, more than twice the number of jobs in fossil fuel extraction and electricity generation.
Besides creating new jobs, cleaner energy will also result in fewer asthma attacks, fewer health problems for elderly Americans and a less polluted future – all of which will benefit our nation’s economy.
The Trump administration may look chaotic, especially this week. But its actions suggest it’s meticulously and unapologetically laying the groundwork for four years of pro-coal policy, of which Perry’s so-called study will undoubtedly be a building block.