WASHINGTON – The Senate voted 62 to 37 Thursday afternoon to confirm former Texas governor Rick Perry as energy secretary, brushing aside Perry’s onetime vow to abolish the department.
The genial Republican drew less fire from Democrats during his confirmation process than other Trump nominees, but Perry now faces many of the same tough issues over regulations, the department’s activities to slow climate change and potentially deep cuts in manpower and spending.
As Texas governor, Perry presided over a boom in all kinds of energy production, including wind power and shale drilling. Many of his supporters cited that record as evidence that he could help a similarly wide variety of energy interests.
But Perry’s foes criticized his tepid acknowledgment of climate change, his strong ties to his state’s oil and gas industry, and his lack of experience with the department’s main budgetary area, the maintenance of the nation’s nuclear stockpile. And they wondered whether he will be able to protect the department’s national laboratories and other scientific research against those who would slash the budget.
Renewable energy supporters expressed hope.
“As Governor of Texas, Rick Perry saw firsthand the positive economic impact as the Lone Star state diversified its energy production mix, resulting in more than 143,000 advanced energy jobs, success integrating more wind onto the grid than anywhere else, improving energy efficiency, and now experiencing a solar boom,” said Malcolm Woolf, senior vice president for policy and government affairs at the business-backed Advanced Energy Economy. “We look forward to working with DOE Secretary Perry, to continue this significant business opportunity to expand advanced energy that now supports more than 3 million workers across the nation.”
Friends of the Earth senior strategic adviser Damon Moglen noted: “Over the course of his career, Rick Perry has taken millions of dollars from the oil, gas and nuclear industries while pushing their dirty energy agenda.”
He added, “Unlike the preeminent physicists who ran the department for the last eight years, Perry lacks the knowledge and experience to run the DOE.” Moglen called the idea that Perry would be able to clean up the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities an “absurdity.”