Rick Perry Plays it Safe at Energy Confirmation Hearing: ‘I Believe Climate is Changing’

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, President-elect Donald Trump's choice as Secretary of Energy, testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Capitol Hill January 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. Perry is expected to face questions about his connections to the oil and gas …
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty

“I believe the climate is changing. I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by manmade activity” Governor Rick Perry has told a Senate Confirmation Hearing in an apparent bid to ward off Democrat objections to his appointment as Secretary of Energy.

Gov Perry, previously known as a climate skeptic – he once famously argued that the Department of Energy should be abolished – was evidently keen to present himself as a conciliatory, centrist candidate rather than a gung-ho, climate-change-denying red meat conservative.

In his opening speech, he stressed the success of Texas under his Governorship in reducing its “carbon output by 17 percent, sulfur dioxide by 56 percent and nitrous oxide by 66 percent”.

We decommissioned 137 older, dirtier power plants while providing incentives for clean technology, such as clean coal and carbon capture and underground storage. In Houston, the billion dollar Petra Nova plant will be opening soon using carbon capture sequestration. We are also using carbon injected into wells for enhanced oil field recovery.”

He promised that, if confirmed, he would “advocate and promote American energy in all forms, and that includes renewables.”

As evidence of his good intent, he cited his home state’s success in promoting not just shale oil and gas, but also wind power:

During my time as governor, Texas took the national lead in wind energy development, and now produces more wind power than all but five countries.”

He also took care to apologise for having once wished the Department of Energy abolished:

“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking.

“In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.

“If confirmed, I will enter this role excited and passionate about advancing the core missions of the DOE, and drawing greater attention to the vital role played by the agency and the hard working men and women who dedicate themselves in pursuit of these missions.”

Gov Perry’s caution before the hearing committee was understandable, especially given the views of  ranking member Sen Maria Cantwell (D-WA). Sen Cantwell opened by telling the hearing that “climate change is real” and proceeded to cite a host of alleged man-made disasters including “ocean acidification” and brushfire outbreaks, apparently caused by “overdependence on fossil fuel.”

Later, Sen Al Franken (D-Minnesota) demonstrated that when it comes to climate science he should stick to comedy by declaring that “97 percent of climate scientists believe climate change is real” which, he claimed, was even greater than the percentage of scientists who believe that smoking causes cancer.

“I believe climate change is an existential threat,” Franken told Gov Perry and the hearing.

Meanwhile – Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) tried forcefully but unsuccessfully to get Gov Perry to agree with his view that “climate change is a global crisis which requires massive cuts in carbon”. Gov Perry said it was nice to have “an academic discussion” but he preferred to stand on his record reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by 17 percent while Governor of Texas.

But Gov Perry wasn’t exactly helped by members of his own camp. Too many of the Republican senators – among them Sen Steve Daines (R-Montana) and Sen John Hoeven (R-N.Dakota) – used the hearing to invite Gov Perry to endorse pet “clean energy” projects in their home states – wind; biofuels; carbon capture and storage – rather than to embrace fully the spirit of their new president, who believes that climate change is a hoax, that wind farms are an abomination and that the war on fossil fuels is killing jobs and the US economy.

Gov Perry’s performance did not really have a great deal to offer those who yearn for a radical Energy Secretary who is totally committed to cutting the green crap which has held the US economy back for so long, especially in the coal states which helped Trump win the presidency.

There was far too much lipservice to the bankrupt junk science of the climate alarmist establishment (which at least Trump himself rightly recognises is corrupt beyond redemption); too much enthusiasm for taxpayer-funded, environmentally unsound renewables and for green “technology” like carbon storage and capture which has been proven a success absolutely nowhere on a large commercial scale, which probably never will and which anyway is a complete waste of money if you believe that carbon dioxide is not a significant driver of climate change; and not enough enthusiasm for potentially game-changing technologies like small modular nuclear reactors.

On the other hand, nor will Gov Perry’s performance have given much succour to the Greenies. He repeatedly evaded Democrat attempts to pin him down as a climate “denier” with his characteristic folksy, slippery charm. And he did, occasionally, display flashes of his core values when he announced “bear in mind that from time to time the science gets it wrong” – he gave “Peak Oil” theory as an example – and declared that US energy policy should not allow environmental concerns to triumph over economic growth and affordability.

Perry, it seems likely, will have done enough to have persuaded his worst critics that he has softened his position on climate change and energy sufficiently for them to be able to stomach confirming him as Energy Secretary. And that, after all, was the objective.

Now, with luck, he will be in a position to do what really needs to be done – and undo all the harm that the Department of Energy and Natural Resources has inflicted on the US, especially under Obama.

If the rumors are true that the Department of Energy is going to cut pointless green offshoots like the Office of Electricity, the Office of Fossil Energy  and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, then this would make an excellent start.


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