Perry Touts ‘24-7’ Power, Oil Pipelines as Key to Energy Security

In his first budget hearing, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said pipelines should be seen as a form of strategic oil reserve.

Rick Perry, U.S. energy secretary
U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is on Capitol Hill this week for three hearings on the Department of Energy budget. Credit: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

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Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Tuesday touted the Trump administration’s plan to pursue an “all of the above” energy strategy, even while cutting federal funding for energy programs by 30 percent.

In the first of his three Capitol Hill hearings this week to defend the White House budget plan, Perry also made clear that the administration’s vision is to keep coal plants running and build oil pipelines. He portrayed both as key to energy security.

“This isn’t my first rodeo,” Perry said, referring to his 14-year stint as governor of Texas. He said he had to manage tight budgets there. “I’ll do the same when faced with limited resources here.”

Overall, the Energy Department would only see a 6 percent budget cut, to $28 billion. But the White House proposes to shift the agency’s priorities dramatically—increasing spending on managing the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile while deeply reducing investment in clean energy research.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the ranking member of the committee, said that the proposed 69 percent cut to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would be a blow to “the sector inventing our future,” and she warned that the planned cuts to the national laboratories would result in the loss of 7,000 highly skilled jobs.

Kaptur and other committee members—both Republicans and Democrats—voiced concern about proposed cuts to programs that were important to their districts. Perry pledged that “we can find places to save dollars, at the same time being able to deliver what citizens want, and what your constituents want.”

Here are some highlights from his testimony:

  • Perry said he was traveling in Asia when President Donald Trump made the announcement that the U.S. would exit the Paris climate agreement. “I delivered the message that even though we’re not part of the Paris agreement, we are still leader in clean energy technology and we are committed to that mission,” he said.
  • Perry did not mention coal power plants by name, but voiced strong support for “baseload” power—plants that can run 24-7. When Rep. David Joyce, D-Ohio, asked Perry about keeping the nation’s nuclear plants running, Perry said, “Not just our nuclear plants but any plants able to run that baseload”—a clear reference to coal plants. “We need to give them appropriate oversight and concern from the standpoint of keeping them operating,” said Perry. Noting soaring temperatures this week in the southwest—a signal of a warming climate—Perry said, “We may get a test this summer from the standpoint of our reliability. I hope we don’t see brownouts.” The way to prevent them, he said is “to make American’s energy reliable and affordable, with sustainability. We know that requires a baseload capability that can run 24-7.”
  • When questioned by Kaptur about the Trump administration’s plan to sell off a large part of the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Perry suggested that an expanded network of oil pipelines across the country could address the national security concerns that led the United States and other nations to develop strategic reserves in the 1970s. “We can consider pipelines to be a form of storage, if you will,” Perry said. “If your point is we need access to crude, the world has changed in the past 10 years” due to fracking offering access to more domestic oil supply. Perry noted that the Dakota Access pipeline, when full, holds 5 million barrels of oil. “If we are building more pipelines, and we have better transportation and connectivity, then maybe that does soften a little bit your concern about reducing the [strategic] supplies,” Perry said.