Op-Ed: Dumb move of the week — Trump's latest plan to save coal sector

Posted Apr 20, 2018 by Karen Graham
The Trump administration is considering implementing the 68-year-old Defense Production Act, which was first passed by Congress in the midst of the Korean War as a way to nationalize an energy industry necessary in times of war.
US President Donald Trump speaks at a Republican retreat in West Viriginia
US President Donald Trump speaks at a Republican retreat in West Viriginia
Basically, President Trump has used a plethora of different tactics to keep his campaign promise of restoring the coal industry, which has been on life-support for years. But now that the demise of coal and nuclear power plants has become a reality, Trump has found one more plan he thinks might work.
No, our Twitter-in-Chief didn't think of this latest brilliant idea - Credit goes to Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia. In a letter he wrote to President Trump on Wednesday, Manchin urged the administration to utilize the policy in the name of homeland security.
"The security of our homeland is inextricably tied to the security of our energy supply," Manchin wrote. "The ability to produce reliable electricity is critical to ensuring our nation’s security against the various threats facing us today — whether those threats be extreme weather events or adversarial foreign actors."
The thing is, Manchin is still living in the 1950s, as are quite a number of lawmakers, including the president, and he is definitely not a lawmaker. Manchin goes on to talk about how the Defence Production Act of 1950 applies to today's political environment, throwing in extreme weather to bolster his argument.
But the senator harps on the need for coal as the backbone of our national defense and sovereignty - while at the same time blasting the Obama administration for "turning its back" on the coal industry.
"If you don’t have the grid filled with the power that’s needed 24/7, you’re in trouble," Manchin said in an interview with Bloomberg News. It’s "an emergency national concern and for the national defense of our country."
History of the Defense Production Act
On September 8, 1950, the Defense Production Act became a federal law in response to the Korean War. The Act contains three major sections. The first authorizes the President to require businesses to sign contracts or fulfill orders deemed necessary for national defense.
The second section authorizes the President to establish mechanisms (such as regulations, orders or agencies) to allocate materials, services and facilities to promote the national defense.
But it is the third section that really should concern all Americans today. It authorizes the President to control the civilian economy so that scarce and/or critical materials necessary to the national defense effort are available for defense needs.
According to Bloomberg, White House aides are already looking into how they can reshape the act to suit Trump's ultimate use as a way to revitalize coal mining and coal-fired power plants. The bottom line also means that Trump can effectively nationalize private industry under the guise of ensuring the U.S. has resources that could be needed amid a war or after a disaster.
"This would extend the statute far beyond how it’s ever been used before," said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard University. "This statute did not contemplate the sort of use that apparently now the administration is considering."
Yes, I agree with Mr. Peskoe, as should any American that looks closely at what the president is trying to do. I am sure Trump would love to get a little more of this nation's industries into his grasp, and nationalizing the electrical industry would make him no better than any of the world's dictators.