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A view from a residential area of the smoke stack of the Cheswick coal-fired power plant in Springdale, Pennsylvania. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Potential Trump administration moves to prop up coal-fired and nuclear power plants for two years would cause an estimated 353 to 815 pollution-related premature deaths and modestly boost carbon emissions, analysts with a non-partisan think tank said.

Why it matters: The just-published study by researchers working with Resources For the Future represents an early attempt to quantify the effects of brewing, highly controversial plans to aggressively intervene in power markets on behalf of economically struggling coal and nuclear generators.

The backdrop: An internal White House memo that Bloomberg obtained in late May envisions sweeping use of federal powers to aid economically-struggling plants for two years.

  • That's meant to buy time for a wider analysis of cyber and physical vulnerabilities in the nation's electricity system. Energy Department officials argue that coal and nuclear plants are vital to system resilience, claiming that gas pipelines, among other infrastructure, are vulnerable to attacks.
  • Critics of the plan — who range from the natural gas industry to environmentalists to various power market analysts — accuse the administration of manufacturing a national security rationale for its longstanding goal of helping the coal industry.

The big picture: In the two-year window, the plan helps coal much more than nuclear because more coal generation is at risk of closure during that period, leading to more emissions of traditional pollutants and greenhouse gases.

One level deeper: The study, as a baseline, assumes the Trump administration plan would delay retirement of an estimated 7,800 megawatts of coal-fired generation capacity and 1,100 megawatts of nuclear capacity over two years.

  • Additional emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from those coal plants would cause as many as 815 deaths.
  • The authors call these mortality estimates "conservative" for various reasons. They note, for instance, that the number of plants prevented from retiring could be larger than they modeled.
  • The net carbon emissions from the policy would be an estimated 22 million short tons over the two years, which the study notes is roughly the amount emitted annually by 4.3 million cars.

Other impacts: The plan would support 1,580 coal mining jobs over the two years, but "might reduce economy-wide employment due to its effects in other sectors, write Daniel Shawhan, an economist who works with RFF, and researcher Paul Picciano.

  • "These results indicate that each year, one American would die from air pollution for every two to 4.5 coal mining jobs supported by the policy.

Go deeper: The climate stakes of Trump's power move.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
49 mins ago - Sports

European soccer is at war

Liverpool celebrating its 2019 Champions League victory. Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

2021's expected earnings blowout begins

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

Ingenuity on the surface of Mars, filmed by NASA's Perseverance rover. Photo: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hovering the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.