Trump announces nuclear policy review in DOE speech
- President Trump announced a "complete review" of U.S. federal nuclear energy policy in a speech at the Department of Energy on Thursday, among other federal energy initiatives.
- The president also touted plans for a petroleum pipeline to Mexico, the opening of more offshore waters to oil and gas drilling, and a deal between Sempra Energy and the Korean Gas Corporation (KOGAS) to develop a liquefied natural gas export project.
- Trump also said he would direct the Treasury Department to address barriers to the financing of "highly-efficient overseas coal plants." He made no mention of new domestic coal plants.
The president wrapped up what his administration labeled "Energy Week" with a speech at the Department of Energy, vowing to unleash the "vast energy wealth" of the U.S.
“With these incredible resources, my administration will seek not only the American energy independence that we’ve been looking for so long, but American energy dominance," he said.
Central to that goal will be the export of American energy resources to other countries. Of the president's six "brand new initiatives" to support energy dominance, four of them had to do with providing U.S. energy resources to other countries.
The president touted a "new petroleum pipeline to Mexico," which he said would go "right under the wall" that his administration is planning. And he promised to open up more offshore waters to oil and gas development.
Trump also touted the approval of "two long-term applications to export additional natural gas from the Lake Charles facility." The DOE on Thursday approved an additional 0.33 Bcf/day of exports from the Louisiana LNG facility, which was previously authorized to export 2 Bcf/day.
LNG was the subject of another Trump talking point — the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Sempra and KOGAS for the proposed Port Arthur LNG liquefaction project in Port Arthur, Texas. The MOU provides a framework for development of the facility, including KOGAS as a potential purchaser of the LNG, according to a release.
And Trump also called for Treasury to review barriers to U.S. financing of coal plants overseas.
"Ukraine already tells us they need millions and millions of metric tons [of coal] right now," Trump said. "There are many other places that need it too."
On the domestic side, Trump announced that the DOE would begin a review of U.S. nuclear energy policies with the aim of reviving and expanding the sector "which produces clean, renewable and emissions-free energy."
No details of the review were given, however, and the administration's leverage over the future of nuclear energy is limited. Nuclear operators and analysts blame low gas prices, stagnant power demand and increasing renewable energy penetrations for putting financial pressure on existing reactors. The development of new plants in the U.S. is hamstrung by the bankruptcy of Westinghouse, a key construction contractor.
To save plants ailing in wholesale power markets, nuclear operators have turned to the states, pressuring governments to approve zero-emission credits that subsidize plants for their carbon-free generation. Operators are closely watching another DOE review — this one focusing on baseload generation — and have pressured the administration not to interfere with the state policies.
“Allowing the states to recognize the environmental benefits of nuclear is important at the federal level,” said Chris Crane, CEO of Exelon, the nation's largest nuclear operator, at a utility conference this month.
Despite the lack of specificity, Trump said his energy policies would usher in a new age of security and prosperity for the country.
“The golden era of American energy is now underway," he said. "And I’ll go a step further: the golden era of America is now underway, believe me."
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