Quantcast

Another Koch Cadet Hired​ at Trump's Department of Energy

Energy
Government Accountability Office

By Ben Jervey

The Koch brothers have landed yet another of their trusted fossil fuel think tank veterans in the Trump administration's Department of Energy (DOE). Alex Fitzsimmons was manager of policy and public affairs at the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and its advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance (AEA), while also working as a "spokesman" and communications director for Fueling U.S. Forward (FUSF), the Koch-funded campaign to bolster public opinion of fossil fuels.

Fitzsimmons will be joining former IER colleagues Daniel Simmons and Travis Fisher at the DOE.


Simmons now serves as the head of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), an office that AEA called for eliminating in 2015, under Simmons' guidance, as then-vice president of policy. Fisher is currently working on the controversial grid study ordered by DOE Secretary Rick Perry. While at IER, Fisher wrote a similar report in 2015, which called clean energy policies "the single greatest emerging threat" to the nation's electric power grid, and a greater threat to electric reliability than cyber attacks, terrorism or extreme weather.

While there have been many IER veterans to land in the Trump administration (and even more known Koch affiliates), the arrival of Fitzsimmons at the DOE marks the first time that someone directly involved with Fueling U.S. Forward has taken a job at one of the agencies or in the White House.

The Koch network reportedly had big plans for the Fueling U.S. Forward campaign when it first launched in late summer of 2016, when Charles Drevna announced that it would make the "pro-human" case for fossil fuels, highlighting the "positives" of oil and gas to American consumers.

As the head of communications for Fueling U.S. Forward, Fitzsimmons wrote a handful of blog posts singing the praises of fossil fuels, work that echoes his contributions to the IER and AEA sites.

The Obama White House, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the DOE were all frequent targets in his articles for IER and AEA. On display in one such post, which contrasts DOE and Energy Information Administration (EIA) projections of wind power penetration in the U.S. energy system, is a casual dismissal of the department's energy modeling and a blatant misunderstanding of how the EIA forecasts actually work.

(Basically, Fitzsimmons claims that the EIA's numbers are model-based projections, but in reality they are forecasts based on current levels of deployment and "business-as-usual" trends. The EIA has also been rightly criticized for underestimating renewable energy growth year after year, a tradition that had become so absurd that the agency had to publicly address it and make plans to correct it.)

Fitzsimmons will doubtlessly bring his pro-fossil fuel talking points to the DOE, though it is unclear what the communications specialist will be tasked with as a "senior adviser."

At the Red State Gathering in August 2016, during which Charles Drevna announced the launch of Fueling U.S. Forward, Fitzsimmons interviewed Drevna. On top of his archives of IER and AEA posts, the interview provides a good a sense of Fitzsimmons' perspective on energy:

Fitzsimmons liked to write about "green energy cronyism" repeatedly over his years at the Institute for Energy Research and Fueling U.S. Forward. And he did so with no apparent sense of irony that the two organizations he received checks from were funded (all or in part) by the Koch brothers and their donor networks, nor that the organizations were led by two long-time Koch confidants: Tom Pyle and Charles Drevna. Fitzsimmons' appointment is proof again that fossil fuel cronyism is alive and well in the Department of Energy and throughout Trump's White House.

Reposed with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Two Sherpa descending from Everest Base Camp, Himalayas, Khumbu, Nepal. Joel Addams / Aurora Photos / Getty Images

Climate change is having a grizzly effect on Mount Everest as melting snow and glaciers reveal some of the bodies of climbers who died trying to scale the world's highest peak.

Read More Show Less
Navajo Generating Station, Arizona. Wolfgang Moroder / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Navajo Nation have decided to stop pursuing the acquisition of a beleaguered coal-fired power plant in Arizona, locking in the plant to be taken offline and its associated coal mine to close later this year.

A Navajo Nation Council committee voted 11-9 last week to stop pursuing the purchase of the 2,250-megawatt Navajo Generating Station, which with the Kayenta coal mine provides more than 800 jobs to primarily Navajo and Hopi workers as well as tribal royalties.

A coalition of utilities that own the plant said in 2017 it would cease operations due to increased economic pressure, and the plant's future has proved a flash point for national and regional energy policy and raised larger questions on how Native communities will handle ties to fossil fuel industries as the economy changes.

For a deeper dive:

Arizona Republic, Indian Country Today, AP, WOKV, Farmington Daily Times

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

Sponsored
Sir David Attenborough opens Woodberry Wetlands on April 30, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. Danny Martindale / WireImage

Beloved nature broadcaster Sir David Attenborough will produce a new documentary for BBC One focused entirely on climate change, the network announced Friday.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Brian Barth

Looking to spice it up this year in the old vegetable patch?

Read More Show Less
An extended version of the Fuxing bullet train at the China National Railway Test Center on Oct. 15, 2018 in Beijing, China. VCG / VCG via Getty Images

By Jeff Turrentine

Is it just us?

Other countries don't seem to have a problem getting their high-speed rail systems on track. This superfast, fuel-efficient form of mass transit is wildly popular throughout Asia and the European Union. Japan's sleek Shinkansen line, the busiest high-speed rail system in the world, carries an estimated 420,000 riders every weekday. In China, the new Fuxing Hao bullet train now hurries more than 100 million passengers a year between Beijing and Shanghai at a top speed of 218 miles an hour, allowing its riders to make the trip of 775 miles — roughly the distance from New York City to Chicago — in about four and a half hours. Spain, Germany and France together have more than 4,500 miles of track dedicated to high-speed rail, over which more than 150 million passengers travel annually.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Ocean Heroes Bootcamp

By Coda Christopherson (11) and Lea Eiders (15)

Growing up in a plastic-free home, I was sheltered from the plastic waste crisis. I (Coda) went to a very progressive school that had vegan lunch items, farm animals and ran on solar power. My mom produces zero-waste events and my dad is a sailor, so we're very passionate about the ocean. When I was nine years old, we moved back to Manhattan Beach, California and I started 3rd grade in a public school. This was the first time I really understood that plastic-free living is not the norm; single-use plastics were everywhere, especially in the cafeteria. Once I recognized this problem, I knew I had to make a difference.

Read More Show Less

A major California avocado producer issued a voluntary recall of the popular fruit over concerns they could be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, USA Today reported.

Henry Avocado issued the recall Saturday after a routine government inspection at its California packing facility turned up positive test results for the bacteria on "environmental samples," the company said in a statement. No illnesses have been reported.

Read More Show Less
Acting Secretary David Bernhardt visited Watson Hopper Inc., a manufacturer of rigs and oil drilling equipment in Hobbs, New Mexico on Feb. 6, 2019. Tami A. Heilemann / DOI

Oil executives gathered for a conference laughed about their "unprecedented" access to Trump administration officials, according to a recording obtained by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

In the recording, taken at a June 2017 meeting of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) at a Ritz-Carlton in Southern California, members expressed excitement about one official in particular: David Bernhardt, who had been nominated that April to be deputy secretary at the Department of Interior (DOI). Bernhardt would be confirmed the following month.

"We know him very well, and we have direct access to him, have conversations with him about issues ranging from federal land access to endangered species, to a lot of issues," IPAA political director Dan Naatz said in the recording.

Read More Show Less