Detractors say that the Trump administration’s new energy subsidy is bad for the environment because it supports coal. But they’ve forgotten nuclear.

Nuclear power plant in Reform, Mo.
(Photo: Jeff Roberson, AP)

Late last month, Energy Secretary Rick Perry asked federal regulators to financially reward coal plants for keeping the electric grid “resilient.” Under the proposed rule, coal plants would be rewarded not for generating electricity but rather for being the kind of plants which can store several months worth of fuel on-site.

So much of the controversy over Perry’s proposed resiliency rule has focused on its support for coal plants that most observers have overlooked how it would also benefit nuclear plants, which produce fewer carbon emissions than solar farms, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

As such — and however paradoxical it may seem — Perry’s proposed resiliency rule could be the most important policy for protecting clean air and the climate in decades.

To understand why, consider the fact that over half of America’s nuclear power plants are losing money and at risk of being replaced by fossil fuels, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And about half of those at-risk plants are in the regions would benefit from the proposed rule.

As such, the resiliency rule could prevent emissions from rising the equivalent of adding 20 to 40 million cars to the road, depending on whether the nuclear plants are replaced by natural gas, coal or a mix of both.

Environmentalists are understandably concerned that the proposed grid resiliency rule would extend a lifeline to coal plants that would otherwise be closed and replaced by renewables.

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