Trump’s plan to bail out coal, nuclear misguided
During the 2016 presiden- tial election, Republican Donald J. Trump embraced a simple and straightforward political strategy: Tell the people what they want to hear.
Thus, Trump told autoworkers in the Mahoning Valley he would boost domestic production of cars, SUVs and trucks; promised coal miners in West Virginia he would revive the failing mining industry; told former steelworkers in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties he would resurrect the huge steel mills that once dotted the banks of the Mahoning River; assured white Americans that their economic pain was caused by immigrants sneaking into this country and stealing their jobs; and, he told all Americans that unfair trade practices were the reason this country’s imports were far outstripping exports.
Finally, the Republican candidate for president told oil and gas producers that his administration’s policies would bolster America’s energy independence and maintain its standing as the world’s leading producer of oil and gas.
The huge crowds Trump drew during the GOP primary and the general election were energized by his “Make America Great Again” fire-and-brimstone speeches.
Blue-collar voters in the Mahoning Valley who traditionally support Democratic candidates were drawn to the Republican presidential hopeful because of his populist message and his America First agenda.
But the problem with promising everything to everyone is that you have to deliver if you win. And that’s when reality hits.
Just ask Bill Siderewicz, president of Boston-based Clean Energy Future LLC., which is building a $900 million natural-gas power plant in the village of Lordstown.
Last Sunday, Siderewicz let loose a verbal barrage against President Trump for directing U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry to bail out the coal and nuclear industries.
“Everyone that has an IQ of more than 25 is upset about this,” Siderewicz told Vindicator business writer Jordyn Grzelewski. “This is so un-American.”
In the free enterprise system, government places few restrictions on the types of business activities or ownership in which citizens participate. And, government does not pick winners and losers.
Unlike the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, which saved the American auto industry from disintegration and the nation’s economy from collapse, the shrinking of the coal and nuclear industries will not trigger a national crisis.
Indeed, Clean Energy Future LLC., which operates numerous gas-fired, wholesale electricity generation plants in Ohio, is scheduled to start up the Lordstown Energy Center next month.
But what has triggered Siderewicz’s anger at Trump’s intention to financially prop up failing coal and nuclear plants is that it will undermine his company’s plan to invest another $900 million in a second gas-fired plant.
The president of Clean Energy told The Vindicator a bailout of the coal industry would shatter Ohio’s competitive energy market. It would dampen investment in gas-fired plants and cost consumers and businesses billions of dollars in higher electricity rates.
It should be noted that Siderewicz voted for Donald Trump for president.
Coal is no longer king. More than 250 coal-fired plants have been retired since 2010, and dozens of others will be closed next year.
The U.S. now generates more electricity from natural gas than coal.
The Trump administration is turning a blind eye to this reality and instead is arguing that coal production is needed for national security reasons.
“This is the most stupid reason to do this,” Siderewicz said. “That’s what happens when you’re not truthful. This has nothing to do with national defense. This is about a political payoff.”
The Mahoning Valley should launch an aggressive effort to stop the misguided policy. Political, business, labor and community leaders should join forces with Siderewicz.
“What we’re doing is fighting this because it disrupts the marketplace that benefits [citizens] in their electric bills,” the head of Clean Energy Future told The Vindicator.
President Trump, who received significant support from this predominantly Democratic region, needs to hear that message.