Many good Americans are opposed to more air pollution and greenhouse gases. Many other good Americans are against any government interference in the marketplace to pick winners and losers.
And a great many good Americans are against all of that.
So, naturally, the administration is pursuing a policy that would, in one swoop, damage the quality of our air, increase climate-changing emissions and seek to countermand some very strong — and, at least in this case, beneficial — natural market forces.
The White House confirmed last week that Energy Secretary Rick Perry has been directed to unearth a couple of old, little-used and — in this case — not applicable emergency laws to order American power companies to buy more electricity from coal-fired and nuclear plants that might otherwise go out of business.
The excuse is that plans by many utilities to retire coal and nuclear facilities somehow endanger national security by weakening the integrity of the national power grid. Thus the move to invoke laws that are clearly intended to be used only in cases of war or other grievous emergency.
But people who actually run the grid — and the independent government agency that supervises it — say no such emergency exists or is at all likely.
Coal and, to the lesser extent it has always been, nuclear are fading from the scene on their own. Because of the threat they pose to the environment, most of us won’t miss them. But the real reason those energy sources are being replaced by renewable sources and, to a much larger extent, cleaner natural gas is because they are cheaper.
Yes, it’s about the money.
The administration’s move to keep zombie coal plants walking flows from the fact that the president, in his campaign and since, foolishly promised to protect coal mines, coal miners and, mostly, coal mine owners from the progress of technology and the wisdom of the free market.
The order also anticipates setting aside a host of environmental regulations affecting coal-fired power and stands to cost utilities, ratepayers and taxpayers billions of dollars they would not otherwise be spending on energy.
This is in direct opposition to what has supposedly been one of the basic tenets of the Republican Party, a respect for the decisions of the market and a belief that the government has no business putting its massive thumb on the scale.
The administration cannot hide the fact that it has given its ear to such courtiers as Bob Murray, boss of the large but declining coal empire Murray Energy Corp., as well as lobbyists and fixers allied with Murray and Perry. It is the only way the pending order makes any sense.
There is absolutely no economic, technological, national security or (not that this administration cares) environmental reason to prop up the coal business in America.
It is time to bury the dead.