Saturday, January 21, 2017

Rick Perry’s Hearing Was Blindsided by a Report that Trump Plans to Gut the Energy Department

Oops. (Photo Credit:  Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
When Rick Perry walked into his secretary of energy confirmation hearing Thursday morning, he was all set to make a bold pitch for the Department of Energy’s crucial role in supporting scientific research and developing new energy technologies.

He told the Senate panel that the DOE was crucial in developing hydraulic fracturing technology, which led to a huge oil and gas boom in America.  He talked about boosting research into advanced supercomputing in the agency’s national labs.  He touted his record in creating a Texas Emerging Technology Fund that made investments in advanced solar technology.  “I'm a big believer,” Perry said, “that we have role to play in applied R&D [research and development] and technology commercialization."

And it all rang utterly hollow.

Because just before Perry’s hearing started, the Hill published a report that Trump’s advisers were contemplating truly staggering, multi-trillion-dollar budget cuts across the entire federal government — including Perry’s department.  The proposed cuts are based on a blueprint from the conservative Heritage Foundation that envisions gutting or zeroing out many of the Energy Department’s key science and energy research programs in everything from nuclear research to carbon capture for coal:
At the Department of Energy, it would roll back funding for nuclear physics and advanced scientific computing research to 2008 levels, eliminate the Office of Electricity, eliminate the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and scrap the Office of Fossil Energy, which focuses on technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
(As a reminder, nuclear weapons make up about 40 percent of DOE’s budget, and would mostly be untouched.  Another 20 percent of the budget goes toward basic research and 15 percent toward energy programs.)

The Hill’s scoop completely overshadowed Perry’s hearing.  At least five Democratic senators asked Perry about the report — and he was blindsided, clearly unaware that Trump was considering anything like this, and unsure how to respond.

Perry had no idea how to respond to Trump’s rumored budget cuts
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) asked Perry whether he’d go along with eliminating the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (which focuses on research around wind, solar, efficiency) or the Office of Fossil Energy (which is crucial for developing carbon capture technology for coal).  He tried to shrug it off, saying “Just because you see something on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true.”

When she pressed, Perry meekly added that he’d try to advocate for these agencies, “but I may not be 1,000 percent successful.”

Read more at Rick Perry’s Hearing Was Blindsided by a Report that Trump Plans to Gut the Energy Department

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