Why Is Trump's Energy Department Lumping Coal and Nuclear Together?

It Should Focus on Strengthening Only the Latter

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry shakes hands with guest after attending his swearing in ceremony at the Executive Office in Washington, March 2017.  Carlos Barria / REUTERS

Today, in the midst of United Nations climate change negotiations in Bonn, U.S. President Donald Trump’s envoys are hosting a parallel event promoting fossil fuels. This has angered many of the representatives gathered in Bonn to implement the Paris climate accord, from which Trump already announced in June that he would withdraw the United States. Because the United States cannot legally leave the climate pact until 2020, it is thus entitled to a seat at the negotiating table in Bonn. That Washington would come to peddle fossil fuels added insult to injury.

Lost in the uproar over fossil fuels, however, was the fact that the offending U.S. delegation event also will promote a much cleaner energy source: nuclear power. As the largest source of clean energy in the United States, nuclear energy will be crucial to limiting global greenhouse gas emissions and confronting climate change. Yet because the Trump administration links its support for nuclear to that for fossil fuels such as coal, it cedes any appearance of responsible environmental stewardship and strains strategically important relationships.

At home, the administration has proposed a controversial policy to provide large subsidies to both nuclear reactors and coal power plants. The link is largely unnecessary; the U.S. Department of Energy claims that the two types of power plants would best improve the resilience of the country’s electric power system, but a bipartisan chorus has panned the proposal as a transparent attempt to prop up energy sources that the administration prefers. By tying the fortunes of nuclear and coal, the administration is jeopardizing the future of an industry that offers climate, diplomatic, security, and economic benefits with that of one that is in irreversible and overdue decline. Trump should disentangle his policies towards the two energy sources and focus efforts on fostering an advanced U.S. nuclear industry.


In September, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry directed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to create a rule

Loading, please wait...

To read the full article

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.