Rick Perry Tapped to Run U.S. Energy Department He Doesn’t Believe Should Exist
The former Texas governor and Dancing With the Stars contestant waltzes his way into the Trump cabinet.
Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, two-time presidential candidate, and one-time Dancing With the Stars contestant, is reportedly President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to run the Department of Energy — an agency that in 2012 he forgot existed before vowing to dismantle it.
Perry was governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015. He ran two failed bids for president: in 2012 and again in 2016, during which he donned a great pair of glasses. The president-elect, unfortunately, wasn’t a fan of them. “He put on glasses so people will think he’s smart. And it just doesn’t work, you know, people can see through the glasses,” Trump said of Perry while stumping in July 2015.
Apparently Trump was right; Perry dropped out of the presidential race two months later — but not before calling Trump a “cancer on conservatism.”
But it would seem Perry has changed his tune on Trump, the glasses, and, for that matter, the Department of Energy.
The department declares its mission is “to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.”
By contrast, Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign website touted his Texas policies “that economic and population growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive, thanks to smart regulations and state-specific solutions.” The campaign website also said Texas leads U.S. production of crude oil, natural gas and electricity; some say Perry’s economic successes as governor were largely tied to the oil sector’s strength during that time. Oil markets have since tanked.
Perry has championed the oil industry, an important element of the Texas economy, which aligns with Trump’s campaign promises to revive the country’s fossil fuel industry and lift oil and gas regulations once in office. In 2011, Perry accused scientists of manipulating climate change data for their own financial gain — a view that climate change-skeptic Trump shares. Perry was, however, governor when Texas became a leader in wind power.
Perry would take over the Energy Department as the government grapples with how to modernize an aging nuclear weapons program. The National Nuclear Security Administration, which comprises roughly 60 percent of the Energy Department’s overall budget, estimates the United States will have to spend nearly $300 billion in the next 25 years to modernize its nuclear weapons stockpile.
The current Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz, played an important role in negotiating the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has said he would tear up. Perry agrees: Even before announcing his 2016 presidential run, he said he would eliminate the Iran deal as one of his first acts if elected.
In addition to having amazing hair, Moniz used to teach as a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after receiving a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Stanford University. His predecessor, Steven Chu, was the first cabinet secretary member who was a Nobel Prize winner. Rick Perry has a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas A&M University.
Photo credit: Mike Stone/Getty Images
Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin