US Energy Secretary Rick Perry is playing some serious mind games with the Trump Administration, or at least so it seems. Tension is mounting over the immanent release of a new grid study that is supposed to support President Trump’s pro-coal rhetoric, but just yesterday Perry used his own @SecretaryPerry account to tweet a whopper of a shoutout to the US wind energy industry.
Err…so, what gives?
Energy Sec’y Rick Perry Toots The Wind Power Horn
CleanTechnica has been tracking the goings-on over at the US Department of Energy ever since former Texas Governor Rick Perry was tapped to helm the agency, and the mystery seems to deepen with each passing week.
Unlike his counterpart Scott Pruitt over at the Environmental Protection Agency, Perry has been steadily building on policies established under the Obama Administration.
Perry has occasionally stuck his foot in his mouth to support the Trump Administration position on fossil fuels, but he has also fashioned himself into the public voice of US renewable energy and clean tech innovation.
Yesterday’s tweet is a good example:
I know right? The link goes to an article on the Energy Department website that appeared all the way back in February, so it’s not like Perry was passing along some fresh news on Twitter.
The article is titled, “Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Wind Power,” and Perry’s tweet covered in item #6 on the list. Scroll down to item #2 and you’ll get this tidbit:
Wind energy is affordable. Wind prices for power contracts signed in 2015 and levelized wind prices (the price the utility pays to buy power from a wind farm) are as low as 2 cents per kilowatt-hour in some areas of the country. These rock-bottom prices are recorded by the Energy Department’s annual Wind Technologies Market Report.
And then there’s the #1 thing you didn’t know about wind power:
By 2050, the United States has the potential to create 600,000 jobs, save consumers $149 billion, and save 260 billion gallons of water by continuing to increase the amount of wind energy that powers our homes, schools and businesses…
Wowsers. How could the White House miss that?
As for Perry’s habit of building on Obama-era energy policies, the article steers readers to a 2015 report (for those of you keeping score at home, that would be under the Obama Administration) that “quantifies the economic, social, and environmental benefits of a robust wind energy future through 2050.”
Trolling 101: It’s Not Just About Wind Power
Those of you familiar with Secretary Perry’s reputation for brain farts may be wondering where the “expert” in expert trolling comes in.
To kick off the week President Trump invited US manufacturers from all 50 states to the White House, so it was a pretty big deal. Did you miss it? If you’re on the President’s “1600 Daily” e-newsletter, this note would have come in your in-box yesterday (emphasis and link theirs):
Yesterday, President Donald J. Trump hosted 50 companies from each state to showcase American products as part of Made in America Week, reaffirming his dedication to fight on behalf of American workers and families. Products ranged from sandwiches, to wool blankets, to firetrucks; each business connected by the common thread of American excellence. The President stated that, “When we purchase products made in the USA, the profits stay here, the revenue stays here, and the jobs — maybe most importantly of all — they stay right here in the USA“.
A couple things. First, that last period should be within the end quote. Second, none of the 50 companies represented one of the brightest spots in the US economy — that’s the wind industry, of course.
The White House email was time stamped 5:58 p.m. on July 18 and it seems that Perry noticed the US wind industry omission, because his tweet was stamped at 6:45 p.m. on the same day.
Did he really notice? Who knows? Maybe it was just a coincidence.
But, that could explain why he shot out a tweet about months-old news when most people were having dinner yesterday evening.
About That New Grid Study…
Another troll factor could be the Energy Department’s new grid study, a draft version of which leaked over the weekend.
For those of you new to the topic, Perry ordered the study in mid-April with the apparent aim of supporting the coal industry as well as baseload nuclear and hydro power plants.
A leaked memo about the study set the renewable energy industry on fire, and the American Petroleum Institute also pushed back on behalf of natural gas stakeholders.*
On the other hand, ever since the study was ordered, Perry and his agency have continued cheerleading for renewable energy and clean tech.
It’s almost like he’s trolling his own study amirite?
The 800 Pound Gorilla In The Room
Perry’s Twitter account is just one part of the Energy Department’s media push this week. The agency’s main Twitter account @ENERGY started off Made in America week with a bang, announcing $40 million in funding four new bioenergy research centers.
I know, right? If you blinked, you missed it.
The tweet linked to an Energy Department press release in which Perry indicated that his agency is committed to decarbonization:
“These centers will accelerate the development of the basic science and technological foundation needed to ensure that American industry and the American public reap the benefits of the new bio-based economy.”
The new bio-based economy!
Earlier this week @ENERGY also steered readers to the agency’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, which operates under the umbrella of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. AMO provides support for R&D including renewable energy and energy storage manufacturing.
A bioenergy/bioproducts project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory also made the @ENERGY cut, as did a new AMO program supporting next-generation manufacturing workforce development, and a retweet from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory celebrating World Emoji Day.
Speaking of NREL, the lab’s @NREL account has been absolutely buzzing with all the good news about renewable energy all this week.
Then there’s EERE, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The EERE Twitter account is protected (is that new?) but it does have a Facebook page. They got an early jump on Made in America week last Sunday with a post headed, “Are you ready to go solar? Here are 3 ways you can finance it today!”
The post links to an article on solar financing that appeared on the Energy Department website all the way back in July 2016. Just saying.
As for the 800 pound gorilla in the room — climate change — that also got a shoutout from the Energy Department for Made in America week.
The Climate Change Science Institute at the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory kicked off Made in America Week on Monday with a tweet linking to a public lecture on climate change titled:
Mitigate, Adapt, or Suffer – Connecting Global Change to Local Impacts and Solutions
Did you even know the Energy Department has a Climate Change Science Institute?
The lecture took place back in May but you can still catch the whole thing on YouTube.
*Note: perhaps the API push was effective — apparently language correctly pointing to natural gas as the main driver of coal plant closures has already been deleted.