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President Trump is desperate to help out coal miners, but the problem is that nobody wants coal these days. Old coal-fired generating plants are being shut down, and earlier this year the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission turned down a request to subsidize them. So now the Trumpies are looking further afield:
Under the approach, the administration would invoke sweeping authority in the 68-year-old Defense Production Act, which allows the president to effectively nationalize private industry to ensure the U.S. has resources that could be needed amid a war or after a disaster….The statute classifies energy as a “strategic and critical material” and gives the president wide latitude to protect providers, including by ordering businesses to accept contracts for materials and services. It was previously invoked in 2001 to keep natural gas flowing to California utilities to avoid electrical blackouts.
I can hardly wait for this. Maybe Trump will nationalize the country’s coal plants. Maybe he’ll nationalize the mines. Maybe he’ll force companies to buy electricity at inflated prices from coal-fired plants. Who knows? Maybe he’ll just order the federal government to buy lots of coal and then dump it in the ocean. It looks like exciting days are ahead for free-market capitalism.