Incoming Secretary Of Energy Rick Perry Has No Idea What The Job Actually Is


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer


Perry, pictured back in 2015, speaking at the annual meeting of the NRA. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Oh dear, Rick Perry’s back in the news. If you are lucky enough to not know who this is, then it falls to us to introduce you to him.

This is the man who is going to be in charge of the Department of Energy (DoE), which handles research into energy development, nuclear power, clean energy resources, and – most of all – maintaining the US nuclear weapons program and waste disposal.


There are a few problems with this. First and foremost, as reported by the New York Times, this unusual fellow initially thought he was taking on a role as a “global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry.”

This is not what the DoE handles at all, not even close. Of course, he’d love to be able to do this in Trump’s climate change denying regime, particularly as so many fossil fuel organizations – including the largest coal group in the US – send him so much money on a relatively regular basis.

Sadly, he will not be an ambassador in this fashion at the DoE. Faced with this insanely steep learning curve, Perry will be more akin to a frog being given control over a space station. It will not go well.

It’s also worth pointing out that Perry once wished to abolish the DoE, which makes it slightly weird that he’s now being put in charge of it.


In a televised debate during the 2012 election cycle, he famously declared he wished to abolish three departments – Education, Commerce, and Energy – since no one has any use for these. He also rather wonderfully forgot the name of the last one, even after other Republican nominees chimed in to help him out.

In the end, he just shrugged and said “oops”, which was one of the many, many reasons he failed to get the Republican nomination when all was said and done.

It must be underscored that he will be replacing one Ernest Moniz, the former chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department. Moniz himself was the successor to Steve Chu, a researcher from Stanford University that won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997.

Perry, for his part, studied animal husbandry at university, which as we all known is extremely relevant to nuclear weapons. He is also a keen dancer, of sorts.


But did Perry just perform a remarkable about-turn? As reported by CNN, he said today that he regrets calling for the agency’s elimination.

“After being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination,” he said during his Senate confirmation hearing.

When it comes to climate change, however, he said that “some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by man-made activity.” Hint: contemporary climate change is, by a massive margin, caused by human activity.

Still, although he is steadfastly refusing to accept the overwhelming science that climate change is a dominantly man-made phenomenon, this is a mild improvement from saying that climate scientists are engaged in a data manipulation conspiracy in order to procure funds. He is, very painfully, heading in the right direction.


Perhaps most encouragingly, Perry noted that he will “advocate and promote American energy in all forms, and that includes renewables.”


Investment in renewable energy? Wonderful – except, of course, he said “all forms”, which presumably includes a lot of coal and oil.

More than anything else, this press release makes it sound like he is somehow still hoping to be an oil and gas ambassador. Again, this is not the point of the DoE, but Perry gets full marks for persistence.

[H/T: New York Times]


  • tag
  • hearing,

  • climate change denier,

  • trump,

  • Department of Energy,

  • Rick Perry,

  • oops,

  • confirmation,

  • secretary of energy