It’s become a theme in Donald Trump’s new cabinet: the president elect is nominating polarizing figures to head government agencies whose mission they oppose. Now along with an Education Secretary who hates public schools, a Secretary of the Interior who wants to sell off our national parks, and climate change denier heading the EPA, Trump has nominated Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy – an agency he wanted to dismantle in 2011.
The Department of Energy is charged with duties ranging from promoting the nation’s technological advancement to managing nuclear waste. The department is responsible for the nation’s nuclear weapons security (a terrifying thought, under Trump’s leadership), as well as funding research into clean energy development.
Like the rest of the cabinet Trump’s assembled, Perry is an avowed climate change denier, and his understanding of science in general seems fairly shaky. For instance, as Governor of Texas, he responded to a severe drought by calling for three days of prayer – rather than taking practical steps to mitigate the problem. (While there’s nothing wrong with prayer per se, it’s not a useful or effective government policy proposal.) He insists that the science of climate change remains unsettled.
But the problems with Perry’s candidacy go deeper than a misunderstanding of science. Naturally, this wouldn’t be a Trump appointment without a heaping side of conflict of interest – and in Rick Perry’s case, he happens to sit of the board of Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. He owns about $100,000 of the company’s stock, and even serves on the board of Sunoco, another company involved in the pipeline. It’s safe to say this is not a nominee who’s likely to prioritize clean or renewable energy.
The appointment is even more galling when you consider the past two heads of the department, Ernest Moniz and Steven Chu—the first an accomplished theoretical physicist, and the second a Nobel Prize winner.
Images via Gage Skidmore