Rick Perry has never seen eye to eye with California. As Trump’s pick for Energy secretary, that’s unlikely to change
Rick Perry served two terms as Texas Commissioner of Agriculture and three terms in the Texas House of Representatives before becoming the governor of Texas.
Rick Perry loves to poke fun at California. When he was Texas governor, he swung through the state on publicity tours to mock its liberal policies and try to lure businesses away.
One time the Republican politician arrived in a California-made Tesla sedan and told reporters he’d like it more “if it had a ‘Made in Texas’ bumper sticker.”
The jabs were part of a long-running economic rivalry between the states, but now Perry could have a new perch from which to pester California — President-elect Donald Trump chose him to lead the Department of Energy on Wednesday morning.
If he were confirmed by the U.S. Senate, much of Perry’s responsibilities would involve ensuring the security of the country’s aging nuclear weapons stockpile and figuring out how to safely dispose of radioactive waste.
But there are other areas where he could have an effect on California, which has pledged to push forward with stringent environmental programs no matter what happens in Washington.
For starters, there are four national laboratories in California that depend on funding from the Department of Energy, and scientists use some of that money to examine climate change. Perry has denied the scientific consensus that the planet is becoming hotter because of human activity, most recently during the Republican presidential primary when he was a candidate. Trump has also expressed doubts about whether it’s possible to be certain about global warming and its causes.
“We have seen the federal government as a partner in research and development,” said Timothy O’Connor, who works on climate policies in California at the Environmental Defense Fund. “This may mean we have to do more of it ourselves.”
A sign of possible hostility to climate policy came when Trump’s transition team sparked concern by requesting the names of Energy Department employees who worked on the issue. Federal officials have refused to provide the information, according to the Associated Press.
Under President Obama, the department has also been a source of financial support for renewable energy in California, including a $1.2-billion loan guarantee in 2011 to develop a San Bernardino County solar plant.
It’s unclear how Perry would handle the issue as energy secretary. He’s best known for his support of the oil and gas industry in Texas, but he also promoted wind power. At the same time, he’s opposed federal subsidies for renewable energy.
The Department of Energy plays a role in energy efficiency efforts as well, a responsibility that traces its roots back to California.
State legislation signed by Ronald Reagan when he was governor in 1974 created what is now known as the California Energy Commission, which develops efficiency standards for appliances and buildings.
Later as president, Reagan signed national legislation in 1987 creating federal rules for some appliances.
“There’s a bipartisan tradition for efficiency standards,” said Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
If Trump’s Department of Energy loosened the pressure to increase efficiency, he said, “California can be expected to look for every opportunity to maintain momentum.”
The state also receives some money from the department to pay for staff working on efficiency standards. This year, it’s $2.57 million.
3:35 a.m.: This article was updated with Trump’s announcement about his secretary of Energy pick.
This article was originally published at 12:05 a.m.
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