The Undiscussed, Out-of-Left-Field Reason Why Rick Perry Is Pursuing His Pro-Coal, Pro-Nuclear Energy Plan Hint: It's Not About GOP Donors

Energy Secretary Rick Perry listens to a statement by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., on TV monitor, during a hearing about the electrical grid, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Energy Secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been taking some shots from environmentalists and green energy advocates lately for pushing hard on his proposal to boost coal and nuclear-generated power.


But there’s a little-discussed, straight-out-of-left-field reason why Perry is pursuing his energy plan so vigorously. And here’s a hint: It’s not because coal and nuclear advocates donated to his boss’ presidential campaign.

Politico recently noted that “Perry’s urgency seems to be driven by fears that coal-fired power plants operated by FirstEnergy Solutions could shut down if the company falls into bankruptcy.” That was interpreted in liberal quarters as an indicator of excessive “donor responsiveness” on Perry’s part (the owner of Murray Energy, which is financially tied to FirstEnergy Solutions, is a big GOP donor and supported President Trump).

But in reality, Perry seems to be worried about something other than a GOP donor-tied firm going bust. Rather, Perry is worried about… the weather.

FirstEnergy provides a lot of power to the area around Pittsburgh, where its coal-fired Sammis and Bruce Mansfield plants are at risk, along with its nuclear-powered Beaver Valley, Davis-Besse and Perry plants. Some units at Sammis are already being shut.

It just so happens that the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting much rougher winter than normal for Pittsburgh:

Peter Geiger, the editor of the Farmers’ Almanac, tells the KDKA Morning News: “I think you’re going to get at least your average [snowfall], which I think is 42 or 45 inches of snow. Cold and average snowfall is what we are saying as an overall.”
Geiger says they are predicting five major East Coast storms during the winter, but isn’t sure how many, if any, will reach Western Pennsylvania.
“There’s one or two in January, two in February and two in March that you want to watch for. There is one storm that comes right across Pennsylvania,” says Geiger.
The Almanac predicts heavy snow in late January and a Nor’easter with heavy snow the first part of February.
When storms like this have hit in the past, extra generating capacity has been needed. And while there’s been a big increase in natural gas’ capacity to generate electricity in recent years, there are still concerns about its ability to do so, without ample backup from more traditional sources like coal and nuclear, given what occurred during the Polar Vortex several years ago.
Perry’s plans will probably take years to push through– assuming opposition doesn’t shut them down in the first place– but bad weather predictions for a key part of the country are almost certainly driving his focus on coal and nuclear in the immediate term.
That is especially the case with President Trump having won Ohio and Pennsylvania, and blackouts or electricity price spikes being a good way of engendering voter rage.



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