Trump’s energy pick Perry softens stance on climate change

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By Timothy Gardner and Valerie Volcovici

<span class="articleLocation”>Rick Perry, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick
to run the U.S. Energy Department, said during his Senate
confirmation hearing on Thursday that global warming caused by
humans is real, but that efforts to combat it should not cost
American jobs.

The comment marks a shift for the former Texas governor who
had previously called the science behind climate change “unsettled” and a “contrived, phony mess”. It also clashes with
Trump’s statements during his campaign for the White House that
global warming is a hoax meant to weaken U.S. business.

“I believe the climate is changing. I believe some of it is
naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by man-made
activity. The question is how do we address it in a thoughtful
way that doesn’t compromise economic growth, the affordability
of energy, or American jobs,” Perry said.

Trump, who will be sworn in as president on Friday, has
vowed to slash U.S. regulations curbing carbon dioxide emissions
and has suggested pulling America out of a global climate change
pact signed in Paris in 2015.

Perry, 66, was governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015, making
him the longest-serving governor of the oil-producing state in
its history. He is seen by Trump as someone who can usher in
jobs growth in the oil, gas and coal industry.

As energy secretary, he would lead a vast scientific
research operation credited with helping trigger a U.S. drilling
boom and advancements in energy efficiency and renewables
technology, and would oversee America’s nuclear arsenal.

The former Texas governor said during the hearing that he
also regrets having previously called for the department’s
elimination, during his failed bid for the Republican
presidential nomination in 2012.

That proposal, which has become known as his “oops” moment,
came during a Republican presidential candidate debate when he
could not initially remember all of the three Cabinet-level
departments he wanted to eliminate – the departments of
Commerce, Education and Energy.

“After being briefed on so many of the vital functions of
the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its
elimination,” he said in his opening remarks to the Senate
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

“PROTECT” THE SCIENTISTS

Democrats on the committee expressed worry that Perry would
weaken the energy department’s functions and potentially target
its army of scientists focused on climate research.

Perry sought to assuage them.

“I am going to protect the men and women of the scientific
community from anyone who would attack them,” he said in
response to a question from Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell of
Washington about whether he would cut the budget of climate
science at the department.

When pressed on whether there would be budget or staff cuts
to key research programs at the Department of Energy, Perry
said: “I will be an advocate (for the programs)…but I’m not
sure I’m going to be 1,000 percent successful.”

He distanced himself from a questionnaire the Trump
transition team sent to the department in December demanding
names and publications of employees who had worked on climate
issues. After an uproar by critics who said it amounted to a
witch hunt, the team disavowed the survey.

“I didn’t approve it. I don’t approve of it. I don’t need
that information,” Perry said.

Perry said much of his focus running the department would be
on renewing America’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

“As a former Air Force pilot during the days of the Cold
War, I understand the deterrent value of our nuclear weapons
systems, and the vital role they play in keeping the peace,” he
said.

More than half of the department’s $32.5 billion budget goes
to maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal and cleaning up
the country’s nuclear waste legacy from the Cold War. The New
York Times said on Thursday that Perry was unaware of the size
of the nuclear role that the department plays when he accepted
the job last year.

Department leadership under Perry would represent a pivot
from being run by learned scientists to a person who is known
for close ties to energy interests.

Current Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is a nuclear physicist
who led technical negotiations in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal,
while the previous head, Steven Chu, is a Nobel Prize-winning
physicist.

Perry resigned from the board of directors of Energy
Transfer Partners LP, the company building the Dakota
Access Pipeline opposed by Native Americans and
environmentalists.



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