The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
What Would U.S. Energy Policy Look Like With Rick Perry at the Helm?
By Rob Cowin
There's a clear trend in the president-elect's cabinet appointments—many of them are opposed to the agencies they would lead.
Some have demonstrated opposition to the particular agency and/or its mission in a professional capacity. Others have stated a desire to see the agency disappear altogether, suggesting the institution has no value.
Rick Perry's appointment to head the Department of Energy (DOE) is certainly consistent with this trend; in a 2011 presidential debate he famously forgot the name of the agency he would abolish. And now he's been nominated to lead it.
Why does it matter and what should we expect?
Is Gov. Perry the Right Fit?
The DOE has important national security responsibilities. It's primarily a weapons and environmental management agency, and the secretary position requires strong management skills.
One of DOE's most important responsibilities is making sure things like this (handling nuclear weapons) happen safely. Wikimedia
The DOE is also a science agency. While it's not essential that the secretary be a scientist, it's important that the secretary understands and values science and the scientific process.
Gov. Perry can certainly make a credible case that he's a good manager and he even has some experience with spent nuclear fuel policy in Texas. But he's also made numerous inaccurate and misleading scientific statements and rejects the scientific consensus on things like climate change. If Rick Perry is truly "very intent on doing a good job," he'll need to hit the reset button on his approach to science and science policy, start talking to the experts and stop making irresponsible statements.
As governor, though, he was savvy enough to see the economic and jobs potential of renewable energy, garnering a reputation as a pragmatist. The Texas wind industry, much of it under Perry's governorship, has provided $33 billion in capital investment to the state and supports more than 24,000 jobs and 38 manufacturing facilities, all while generating an incredible 18,531 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity.
How much credit Gov. Perry deserves is debatable, but his record should provide clean energy advocates some cautious optimism. One can work with a pragmatist; it's the ideologues you have to watch out for.
What the Department of Energy Does
Most of DOE's focus is nuclear weapons-related. The agency includes the National Nuclear Security Administration, with the vast majority of the agency's budget allocated to maintaining our nuclear arsenal and managing the cleanup of radioactive waste, much of it from the legacy of the Cold War.
DOE also does a lot of basic science research. DOE manages our 17 national labs, which employ roughly 110,000 people, are supported by Republicans and Democrats, and have helped the U.S. remain at the forefront of science and technology innovation since WWII.
DOE invests in basic scientific research.Sandia National Laboratories
The national labs continue to produce breakthroughs that aid our national security and economic competitiveness, as well as increasing our understanding of everything from automotive engineering, to environmental health, to computer science, to the origins of our universe.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A jury in Missouri awarded a farmer $265 million in a lawsuit that claimed Bayer and BASF's weedkiller destroyed his peach orchard, as Reuters reported.
A coalition of local and national groups on Friday launched a legal challenge to a Louisiana state agency's decision to approve air permits for a $9.4 billion petrochemical complex that Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group plans to build in the region nationally known as "Cancer Alley."
Well, he told us he would do it. And now he's actually doing it — or at least trying to. Late last week, President Trump, via the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, announced that he was formalizing his plan to develop lands that once belonged within the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in southern Utah. The former is a stunningly beautiful, ecologically fragile landscape that has played a crucial role in Native American culture in the Southwest for thousands of years; the latter, just as beautiful, is one of the richest and most important paleontological sites in North America.
Hundreds of thousands of mussels that cooked to death off the New Zealand coast are likely casualties of the climate crisis.