Five years ago, during the Republican primary, Rick Perry made a curious announcement. In the midst of a speech about his proposed flat tax, he turned to Ron Paul, standing at the lectern next to him, and said, “I will tell ya, it’s three agencies of government, when I get there, that are gone: Commerce, Education, and the, uh… what’s the third one there? Let’s see…” Perry floundered for an agonizing minute, unable to muster the name of the agency, before letting slip an “Oops.”
The agency he blanked on was the Department of Energy. And president-elect Donald Trump has just appointed Perry to head it.
The Department of Energy is a very important regulatory body, which manages the security for our nuclear arsenal, is influential in environmental policy and was involved with the brokering of Obama’s Iran deal. Perry was a popular choice among conservatives, who see him as a reformer who will take a scalpel (or a sword) to the department’s fossil fuel and efficiency offices.
Perry’s voice was among those in the Republican mainstream who denounced Trump during his presidential run. Perry called him, in fact, a “cancer on conservatism,” making the appointment even more interesting and ironic than it already was. Perry also said that Trump’s campaign represented “a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.”
After Trump won the nomination in May, Perry reformed his rhetoric. “He wasn’t my first choice, wasn’t my second choice, but he is the people’s choice.”
Perry is a climate skeptic, and is taking the helm during a robust time for the DOE. The department currently employs over a hundred thousand workers and contractors, and enjoys a $29.6 billion budget.
Eerily, the Trump camp has asked the DOE to give them names of any and all employees who worked on the Obama administration’s climate initiatives.
The ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Frank Pallone, is dismayed by the Perry appointment, which he says “defies all logic.” He went on to say, “It is also deeply unsettling that our current Secretary of Energy, a renowned nuclear physicist, could be succeeded by a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. Governor Perry is simply not qualified for this position and should be rejected.”
Perry once portrayed climate change as a kind of profit-driven conspiracy perpetrated by funding-hungry researchers. “A substantial number of scientists… have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.” Although he couldn’t cut down all of the Obama administration’s climate-related mandates in the DOE in one fell swoop, he could certainly winnow them down to a state of anemia during his time as head of the department.