Months Of Media Speculation Over An Energy Department Study Exposed As Fake News

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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An energy consultant hired to write a report on the U.S. electrical grid shot down a months-long media narrative that Trump administration would whitewash the study’s results to suit their own policy goals.

“DOE management had a lot of warning about where the facts were going, but no one ever tried to interfere, no one ever tried to deny the facts, no one tried to tell me what to write,” energy consultant Alison Silverstein told the podcast Grid Geeks.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry ordered the Energy Department to assess the state of the electric grid, including the impacts of regulations and subsidies have had on baseload power plants — coal and nuclear.

Almost immediately, media outlets spun the study as being commissioned to aid the coal and nuclear industry, which have been outcompeted largely by natural gas.

Some of this was pushed by the wind industry, according to a leaked memo obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

In the memo, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) laid out their strategy to undermine Perry’s report. AWEA worked with reporters, including Diane Cardwell of The New York Times, to pre-spin the DOE study as biased.

Outlets also targeted the credibility of the official leading the study, Travis Fisher, a former economist with the free market Institute for Energy Research.

The overall fear was Trump administration officials would manipulate the process or study’s findings to favor coal and nuclear power. But Silverstein shot down months of media speculation.

“The whole plotline about this evil cabal of DOE people who were going to squash it? Didn’t happen,” said Silverstein.

Perry brought in Silverstein, a Texas energy consultant, to co-author the study. Silverstein advised former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Pat Wood III during the Bush administration.

Silverstein, however, did criticize the summary of the study’s results for being a little too harsh on wholesale electricity markets.

“Wholesale electric competition works,” she told Grid Geeks. “It kicked into gear around 2000 and it did exactly what it was supposed to do, which is drive inefficient, high cost generation out of the market and incent more efficient generators into the places that we need them.”

DOE released its grid study in late August., which laid to rest many criticisms. The study found green energy was not a major threat to grid reliability, and that regulations were not a major driver behind coal and nuclear power plant closings.

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