In yet another we-wish-it-were-baffling appointment, Donald Trump has announced renewable energy critic Daniel Simmons as the new head of the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Donald Trump’s appointments to key positions in his administration have been slow going, but have never failed to raise eyebrows. He appointed an ex-fossil fuel CEO to be his Secretary of State, a renowned climate skeptic to head up the transition for the EPA and a renowned EPA antagonist and fossil fuel-puppet to head up the EPA, a racist anti-equal rights muppet as Attorney General, and any number of Wall Street bankers to positions in an Administration which was supposed to be “for the people.” His energy and science appointments have been especially telling, prioritizing traditional economics over the new reality and scientific fact.
So, to make matters worse and to ensure he doesn’t make a sensible appointment, Donald Trump has appointed Daniel Simmons, a conservative scholar and renewable energy critic to be the head of the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).
The Washington Post‘s article on the appointment explains that “The selection marks one of several recent Trump appointments to top energy and environmental posts, which appear to repudiate the Obama administration’s policies aimed at shifting the nation to low-carbon sources of electricity.” However, that hardly seems to go far enough. Donald Trump’s appointments don’t simply “appear to repudiate Obama administration’s policies” but go all the way to simply repudiating sensible business and scientific realities. Scott Pruitt’s time at the top of the EPA will only castrate the necessary environmental work that organization has been doing for decades, in the face of all good science. Rick Perry’s time as the head of the Department of Energy will severely hamstring the country’s economic development and energy security.
And appointing Daniel Simmons as head of the EERE will only further hinder America’s growth and development. Not only will it obstruct renewable energy development — a vital step in minimizing the country’s emissions — but it will likely kill billions in investment and thousands of jobs across the country.
The EERE’s mission “is to create and sustain American leadership in the transition to a global clean energy economy.” So far, according to the EERE, $12 billion in EERE taxpayer investment has yielded an estimated net economic benefit to the US of more than $230 billion with an overall annual return on investment of more than 20%.
However, Dan Simmons recently served as vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, a notoriously conservative think tank, bought and for primarily by fossil fuel money, that unsurprisingly advocates greater fossil fuel use and opposes the international climate agreement signed in Paris. According to the group’s own website, “IER maintains that freely-functioning energy markets provide the most efficient and effective solutions to today’s global energy and environmental challenges and, as such, are critical to the well-being of individuals and society.” Recently, it has called for an end to wind subsidies, and hit out at Earth Day marches as “ignoring the economic science of climate change” based on some absurd concentric faulty reasoning.
Further, the IER’s president, Thomas J. Pyle, was the head of the transition team for Trump’s Energy Department. He is quoted as unsurprisingly backing the appointment of Simmons: “I applaud President Trump and Secretary Perry for selecting Daniel for a leadership role at the Department of Energy. His years of experience in energy and environmental policy and appreciation for the power of free markets and consumer choice will bring a fresh perspective to the agency.”
Simmons has gone out of his way to set himself up as the poster boy for dismantling renewable energy funding and development, doing so in such a way as to get across the least amount of reality possible. Renewable energy is too expensive, wind and solar will raise electricity prices, and oil and gas should be prioritized. He makes no mention of the massive subsidies currently backing the fossil fuel industry in America, and what that would do to electricity prices if those same subsidies were removed — or handed over to renewable energy sources.
It’s a common enough argument: Fossil fuel is cheaper than renewable energy, therefore, choose fossil fuels. However, two unfortunate facts (or Inconvenient Truths, as they often like to say) give lie to this. Not only are fossil fuels supported by massive subsidies, but solar and wind are becoming more and more cost competitive all the time.
All of this is to say, America’s next four years are going to be rough, whichever way you look at it.