This has alarmed some science advocates. “The Energy Department is a massive science agency that plays a major role in scientific enterprise at the federal level. It’s not always the case that it’s been led by a scientist, but to have somebody dismissing climate science as the head of the department, that’s worrying,” said Andrew Rosenberg, the director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science advocacy organization.
There are other notable differences between the outgoing and potentially incoming cabinet secretaries as well. Moniz played a major role in the negotiation of the Iran nuclear deal, an international agreement that Perry has claimed “jeopardizes the safety and security of the free world.” Perry has also been sharply critical of the Obama administration’s energy policy overall, accusing the president of “waging a war on coal,” and “creating obstacles to onshore and offshore oil and gas production.”
As Texas governor, Perry presided over an uptick of natural gas drilling and defended oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. A New York Times report on his record as governor from 2011 noted that “Under Mr. Perry, Texas has moved eagerly to build coal-fired power plants, even as other states have stopped issuing permits for the plants because of pollution concerns.” But Perry has supported the wind industry in Texas as well, signing legislation that mandated an expansion of renewable energy capacity.
Perry tried and failed to win the Republican nomination for president in 2012, and launched another unsuccessful presidential bid in 2016. Earlier this year, he became a contestant on the television show Dancing with the Stars only to be eliminated not long after it began. Perry is also a member of the board of directors for Energy Transfer Partners, a company that owns Dakota Access LLC, which is attempting to build the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Perry is the latest in a series of Trump cabinet picks who have been critical of the agency they may lead or advocate an agenda at odds with the agency’s mission under President Obama. Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who Trump has chosen to head the Environmental Protection Agency, has been a high-profile legal opponent of the agency’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Andrew Puzder, Trump’s choice for labor secretary, has criticized worker protections undertaken by the Labor Department under the Obama administration.
Perry has not always agreed with Trump, or even supported him. Last year, he denounced him as a “cancer on conservatism,” calling Trumpism “a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.” But that anti-Trump conviction appears to have been short-lived. Earlier this year, Perry endorsed Trump, saying that while “he is not a perfect man” he believes that Trump “loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people.” Now, one of those people Trump surrounds himself may be Perry himself.
Given Trump’s track record of punishing what he perceives to be disloyalty it might seem surprising that he would want Perry to serve as his energy secretary. Perry’s about-face, however, seems to have satisfied the president-elect. “We’re big fans of Governor Perry, someone who did a fantastic job with the state of Texas,” Trump aide Jason Miller told reporters on Tuesday.