WASHINGTON, March 3, 2017 – The Senate today confirmed Rick Perry as the nation’s 14th Secretary of Energy, a department he once vowed to abolish. He was later sworn in following the 62-37 vote.
During his confirmation hearing, the former Texas governor told lawmakers that he regrets his statement about doing away with DOE and that he believes it performs critical functions, including protecting the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
Perry, who turns 67 on Saturday, served as governor of the Lone Star State from December 2000 to January 2015. During his tenure, Texas kept up its reputation as a major producer of oil and natural gas while it also became the nation’s biggest wind-power state and a top producer of solar. Perry, who also is a former Texas Agriculture Commissioner, has pledged to back an “all of the above” energy policy.
Perry ran unsuccessfully for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 and in 2016. Then President-elect Trump, after winning the nomination, said he chose his former opponent in the primaries because he “had created a business climate that produced millions of new jobs and lower energy prices in his state, and he will bring that same approach to our entire country as Secretary of Energy.
“My administration is going to make sure we take advantage of our huge natural resource deposits to make America energy independent and create vast new wealth for our nation, and Rick Perry is going to do an amazing job as the leader of that process,” Trump said.
During a 2015 presidential primary forum on agricultural issues in ethanol-friendly Iowa, Perry did not give a “yes” or “no” answer on his support for the Renewable Fuel Standard. Instead, he bobbed and weaved before admitting that as governor he had asked for a waiver from the mandate. He said it was the right decision for his state during a drought, but then seemingly said he would accept the federal mandate until a time when all energy subsidies could be scrutinized to see if they are “in the best interests of our country.”
“I don't think you pull the RFS out and discriminate against the RFS and leave all of these other subsidies and mandates in place,” he told the crowd before switching to a states’ rights argument. “I don't think Washington, D.C. – whether it's on deciding on what our child's curriculums should be, deciding what our health care should be ... or picking winners or losers when it comes to agricultural products.” If a state wants to set an energy mandate, as Texas has done for wind, he said that’s OK.
Today, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chair Lamar Smith, himself a Texan, endorsed Perry and said he brings a wealth of knowledge with him as he takes the reins” at DOE.
“As governor, Secretary Perry created an environment for Texas to thrive as an ‘all of the above’ energy state that is the largest producer of oil, gas, and wind energy,” he said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California was one of the Democrats who voted against Perry. She cited his “lack of knowledge on nuclear issues” and his “skepticism of the established science concerning climate change.”
Perry, who in the past had called climate change a hoax, told senators at his confirmation hearing that he had changed his thinking on the subject. “I believe the climate is changing,” he said. “I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by man-made activity.”
Environmental groups were also opposed to Perry taking over DOE. Damon Moglen, senior science adviser with Friends of the Earth, said that over the course of Perry’s career, he “has taken millions of dollars from the oil, gas and nuclear industries while pushing their dirty energy agenda.”
Earlier Thursday, the Senate confirmed another of Trump’s primary opponents, Ben Carson, as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Carson and Perry are the 17th and 18th of Trump’s 22 Cabinet and Cabinet-level nominations to be approved by the Senate.
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