The Trump administration, seeking to justify its fascination with coal, a product that is increasingly out of favor with most other industrialized countries worldwide, is arguing that gas pipelines are too vulnerable to hacking, threatening American energy security. Therefore, the United States, it is argued, need more coal in the energy mix. Why a hacker intending to disrupt energy security in the United States could not also hack into a coal-fired plant was not addressed by Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
“They are certainly using every argument they can come up with to try and justify it,” said one pipeline executive, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of talks with the White House. “The challenge is we don’t want to advertise all the measures we're taking to deal with the threat. You’re trapped.”
Coal and nuclear power have come under increasing economic pressure from natural gas, which is abundant, cheap, and relatively clean vis-a-vis coal. Efficient renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are also competing against coal.
Trump, in what would be an extraordinary intervention into the market, is considering using his national security powers to order power grid operators to buy electricity from a list of struggling coal and nuclear plants for two years “to forestall any further action toward retirement, decommissioning, or deactivation of such facilities,” according to Department of Energy memo.