Rick Perry and the Department of Energy have a back-and-forth relationship.
Perry once wanted to eliminate the department while running for president, but forgot to name the agency during a 2011 debate in his infamous “oops” moment. Five years later, he was named as President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the department Perry had wanted to ax.
On the eve of his Senate testimony Thursday, it was revealed that Perry thought the Department of Energy dealt mostly with oil and gas issues when he was tapped by Trump in December. The department’s biggest responsibility is overseeing the country’s nuclear arsenal and storage of radioactive waste.
“I have learned a great deal about the important work being done every day by the outstanding men and women of the DOE,” Perry said in his opening statement. “I have spoken several times to Secretary Moniz and his predecessors. If confirmed, my desire is to lead this agency in a thoughtful manner, surrounding myself with expertise on the core functions of the department.”
Perry, who was introduced by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, said his past desire to eliminate the Energy Department did “not reflect my current thinking.”
The former longtime Texas governor brings star power and a political background that differs from his predecessor Ernest Moniz, a scientist with an academic background in nuclear energy.
“I do not subscribe to the view that only a scientist can manage other scientists,” said Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. “We need a good manager, a manager who can manage other scientists.”
Perry touched on his experience running Texas and the energy boom that occurred during his 14-year tenure in Austin.
“I have firsthand experience with the shale energy boom that revolutionized American energy and with state-led cleanup efforts to improve our environment,” he said.
Perry also said humans contributed to climate change, something Trump once called a hoax.
“I believe the climate is changing,” Perry said. “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.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled the first name of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.