In his Senate confirmation hearings to be the head of the Department of Energy, Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has rolled back his opinion of the DOE, climate change, and renewable energy, but it might come to nothing in the end, as reports suggest Donald Trump is preparing devastating cuts to the Department which would severely restrict America’s ability to meet its own climate and energy goals.
Back in December we were rightly dismayed at the announcement that President-elect Donald Trump would nominate former Texas Governor Rick Perry to be the Energy Secretary. Not only had Rick Perry once-upon-a-time vowed to close the Department of Energy, but Governor Perry also supported the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline, and called climate change a “contrived phony mess,” and called efforts to tackle climate change nothing more than “hysteria.”
However, in what might be seen as a surprising and pleasing turn of events, in his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday Perry gave us the following:
“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking. In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”
OK, so it doesn’t bode well for his past self, but it shows some measure of growth now, right?
Further, Governor Perry added that he is “committed to modernizing our nuclear stockpile, promoting and developing American energy in all forms, advancing the department’s critical science and technology mission, and carefully disposing of nuclear waste.”
While Governor Perry’s words don’t ring of a full-throated endorsement of clean energy, he certainly hasn’t turned his back on it.
However, it looks as if Donald Trump is turning his back on clean energy, if reports from The Hill are anything to go by. Published before Governor Perry’s confirmation hearing had even gotten underway, The Hill reported that “Donald Trump is ready to take an ax to government spending” — which could be construed as a good thing, until you take a look at exactly how he is supposedly proposing to do this.
Specifically for our interests, The Hill is reporting that President Trump is looking to roll back funding for nuclear physics and advanced scientific computing research, so that they sit somewhere around 2008 levels. Additionally, President Trump is allegedly looking to eliminate the Offices of Electricity, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the Office of Fossil Energy (which is intended to focus on technologies aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions).
Unsurprisingly, the news made it into the confirmation hearing for Governor Perry. Senator Angus King described the alleged measures as “absolutely nuts” and asked Perry, “Will you commit to me that you’re going to be lionhearted in this endeavor to protect this agency? Because they’re cutting the legs out from under you.”
“Senator, I have a rather interesting background, not unlike yours, of defending budgets, both from those who are in the know and sometimes people who—” Perry replied, before being interrupted by King.
“It’s hard for me to believe that the people who are recommending these cuts are in any kind of know.”
“I’ll—uh—allow your statement to stand,” Perry replied.
It boggles the imagination that we might be relying on Former Texas Governor Rick Perry to stand up for the Department of Energy and the role it is playing in the transition to a low-carbon economy, but that might be the world we find ourselves in come Monday — because as we’ve all seen, Trump doesn’t look like he’s aware the President works on the weekends.