President-elect Donald Trump's pick to head the Department of Energy is a man who once vowed to eliminate it.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is an ardent supporter of the fossil-fuel industry who ran for president in the last two elections.

But the Energy Department was part of a memorable gaffe that helped put an end to Perry's first presidential effort.

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During a 2011 primary debate in Michigan, Perry said he wanted to eliminate three federal agencies, but could only name the Commerce and Education departments.

"Oops," Perry said after failing to name the third agency.

Later in the debate, he said that it was "the Department of Energy I was reaching for awhile ago."

U.S. Capitol Building

U.S. Capitol Building

Perry currently sits on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, the firm trying to complete the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Army Corps of Engineers recently decided to withhold a permit needed to complete the oil pipeline, which attracted sustained protests over concerns that it would disturb Native American burial grounds and pollute drinking water on a nearby reservation.

Perry's enthusiasm for fossil fuels makes his nomination controversial—but it may not be terribly relevant to the bulk of the activities performed by the agency he has been tapped to lead.

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Despite its name, most of the Energy Department's budget actually goes toward maintaining the nation's stockpile of nuclear weapons, and cleaning up nuclear waste, notes The Washington Post.

The agency also runs the network of national laboratories, and sets standards for appliances.

But the Energy Department is also relevant to the deployment of electric cars and other green technologies.

Containers holding spent nucleat fuel [Nuclear Regulatory Commission photo]

Containers holding spent nucleat fuel [Nuclear Regulatory Commission photo]

It conducts basic research into strengthening the electrical grid, technologies for reducing energy consumption, and research into the impact of energy generation on the environment.

The agency has also provided low-interest loans to companies—including automakers Fisker, Ford, Nissan, and Tesla—that pursue green technologies.

Perry has questioned the scientific validity of climate change, including accusing scientists of manipulating data to attract funding during his 2012 president campaign, according to The Washington Post.

Consequently, the announcement of Perry as the perspective Energy Department head drew howls from environmental groups, who anticipate the agency's current focus on renewable energy will be reversed under the incoming administration.

“There is no doubt that Rick Perry is completely unfit to run an agency he sought to eliminate – and couldn’t even name," Gene Karpinski of the League of Conservation Voters said in a statement.

"Perry is a climate change denier, opposes renewable energy even as it has boomed in Texas, and doesn’t even believe CO2 is a pollutant," he said.

Oil well (photo by John Hill)

Oil well (photo by John Hill)

On the industry side, Perry was praised by natural-gas lobbying group NGVAmerica, whose president, Matthew Godlewski, said in a statement that Perry was a "strong choice to serve as our next Secretary of Energy."

Perry's selection follows the circulation of a questionnaire at the Energy Department by the Trump transition team requesting names of employees and contractors who attended climate-change policy conferences.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, 2008

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, 2008

The selection of a leader who has vowed to eliminate the agency has compounded fears of punishment for support of climate-change policy, Energy Department employees told The New York Times (subscription required).

Perry is the second nominee to have fought the mission of the agency he may soon run.

Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, Trump's nominee for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, is a climate-science denier who has sued the EPA multiple times.

Perry, Pruitt, and Rex Tillerson—the ExxonMobil CEO and nominee for secretary of state—are also all close to the fossil-fuels industry, and question the scientific consensus of climate change.

Green Car Reports respectfully reminds its readers that the scientific validity of climate change is not a topic for debate in our comments. We ask that any comments by climate-change denialists be flagged for moderation. Thank you in advance for helping us keep our comments on topic, civil, respectful, and fact-based.


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