A truck delivers coal to Pacificorp's 1440 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Castle Dale, Utah. Photo: George Frey via Getty Images

In June, President Trump proposed a large-scale intervention by the federal government into competitive electricity markets to bail out select coal and nuclear power plants struggling to compete. The president has claimed that a bailout is justified on national security grounds.

Why it matters:  President Trump’s proposal would undermine electricity markets and cost Americans billions of dollars, but do nothing to address the real security threats facing the grid.

The facts:

  • The grid is at risk. In March, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued an unprecedented cyber alert, warning that Russia was targeting U.S. critical infrastructure, including energy and nuclear power. Meanwhile, extreme weather events have impacted and continue to threaten critical military facilities.
  • Power plants aren’t the problem. According to the Department of Energy, more than 90% of outages arise from failures in the transmission and distribution system — not power plants. Similarly, about 90% of military-base electric outages of eight hours or more result from problems with the Department of Defense’s own infrastructure.
  • Trump’s plan would cost billions but produce no national security benefit. A recent analysis estimated that the cost of the bailout could exceed $34 billion over two years. That money would go to private utility shareholders and would do nothing to fortify the grid — or military bases — against cyber attacks or extreme weather.

What they’re saying: Robert Powelson, a Trump appointee who recently resigned from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has said that the bailout “could potentially ‘blow up’ the markets and result in significant rate increases without any corresponding reliability, resilience or cybersecurity benefits.”

The bottom line: If the priority is to address cyber threats to the grid, the Trump administration might want to focus on the Department of Energy’s own “Multiyear Plan for Energy Sector Cybersecurity,” issued in March. That plan doesn't have provisions for propping up uneconomic power plants, but instead includes steps far more likely to get the grid where it needs to go.

David Livingston is deputy director for climate and advanced energy at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center.

Go deeper

Updated 46 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale hospitalized

Brad Parscale, the former campaign manager for President Trump's re-election campaign, at Drake University in January in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Fort Lauderdale police arrived at former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale's home on Sunday after his wife called and said he was threatening to harm himself, Florida officials confirmed to Axios.

Details: Fort Lauderdale Police Sgt. DeAnna Greenlaw told Axios officers responded to a report of "an armed male attempting suicide" just before 4 p.m. local time.

Updated 2 hours ago - Science

California wine country wildfire prompts evacuations

The scene of the Glass Fire in St. Helena, in Napa County, California, on Sunday. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in the western U.S. were facing "critical fire weather conditions," as a rapidly spreading new wildfire in Northern California prompted fresh evacuations Sunday.

Why it matters: Wildfires have burned a record 3.6 million acres in California this year, killing 26 people and razing over 7,600 structures, per Cal Fire. Utility provider Pacific Gas & Electric cut power to 11,000 customers early Sunday and planned outages for 54,000 others later in the day because of fire risks.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Judge temporarily blocks Trump's TikTok ban

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A federal court judge on Sunday granted TikTok's request for a temporary restraining order against a ban by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Americans will be able to continue downloading one of the country's most popular social media and entertainment apps — at least for now.