Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry once wanted to eliminate the U.S. Department of Energy, although he couldn't remember its name while detailing his anti-regulatory plan during a GOP debate. Now, he is reportedly President-elect Donald Trump's choice for Secretary of Energy. Perry has called himself an "all-of-the-above" energy advocate, and Texas solidified its position as the nation's leading wind energy state during his tenure. But he is also an unabashed supporter of fossil fuel development and denies the science of climate change.
If confirmed, he will lead an agency with a $30 billion budget charged with promoting scientific and technological innovation to advance the nation's energy security. A key part of the department's mission has been clean and advanced energy technologies, via grants for research and development, and the work of 17 national laboratories. The Energy Department was to be the linchpin of the U.S. pledge to Mission Innovation, a global initiative involving 20 nations aimed at doubling public clean energy research and development. The program, spearheaded by President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande with support from tech entrepreneur Bill Gates, is seen as a critical step in fulfilling the transition to a low-carbon energy future that nations committed to in the Paris agreement.
The Trump transition team signaled that the president-elect is contemplating significant budget cuts, and is eyeing climate programs in particular. A questionnaire sent to Energy Department officials, first reported by Bloomberg News, asked for the names of employees who had attended international climate talks, or who had worked on social cost of carbon metrics for use in weighing the costs and benefits of regulations.
About one-quarter of the Energy Department's budget is devoted to environmental cleanup of contaminated Cold War-era nuclear weapons sites, and could not be cut. Another 40 percent is for safely maintaining the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal and responding to radiological incidents at home and abroad. (It supports monitoring the agreement with Iran to prevent that nation from obtaining nuclear weapons, an agreement that Trump has vowed to scrap.) That leaves the energy R & D programs more vulnerable if the Trump administration wants to slash spending.
Perry opposes government action to curb the use of fossil fuels, arguing the science of climate change is suspect. While governor, he tried to fast-track 12 new coal-fired power plants—a plan that was ultimately scrapped. During his two unsuccessful runs for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 and 2016, he has repeatedly shared his thoughts on climate change. Here's some of what Perry had to say: