Trump's first 100 days

Get to know Rick Perry, the Energy Secretary who once said he would demolish the Department of Energy

Moriah Ratner | Staff Photographer

Perry was confirmed last week in a 62 – 37 vote as the head of the Department of Energy, which he famously said he would demolish if he were president but could not recall the name of the department during a presidential debate in 2011.

After two unsuccessful campaigns for the presidency of the United States, Rick Perry now finds himself in a new role as energy secretary.

Perry was confirmed last week in a 62 – 37 vote as the head of the Department of Energy, which he famously said he would demolish if he were president but could not recall the name of the department during a presidential debate in 2011. He has since retracted that statement.

“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” Perry said during his confirmation hearing. “… I regret recommending its elimination.”

The DOE oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons and various national scientific laboratories. During the Obama administration, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was part of the team that negotiated Iran’s nuclear program.

Some of the laboratories under Perry’s watch conduct research into technology that could help combat the effects of climate change, per The New York Times. In the past, Perry has denied the existence of climate change as the result of human action.

In a book he authored in 2010, Perry referred to human-caused climate change as a “contrived, phony mess.” At an event in New Hampshire in 2011, he said the issue of global warming has been politicized.

“I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects,” he said. “… Yes, our climate’s changed. They’ve been changing ever since the earth was formed. But I do not buy into a group of scientists, who in some cases were found to be manipulating this information.”

Perry has split from those views. During a Senate confirmation hearing, he acknowledged the existence of human-caused climate change, but said efforts to reverse the effects should not “compromise economic growth, the affordability of energy or American jobs.”

Before entering politics, Perry served in the United States Air Force and was a farmer. Perry joined the political realm as a Democrat in the Texas House of Representatives, where he served from 1985 to 1991. In 1989, he switched to the Republican Party.

Most recently, he served for 14 years as Texas governor, making him the longest running governor in the state’s history. During his tenure, Texas saw a high rate of job growth and low tax rates, according to The Washington Post.

When Perry left office, there were 1.1 million more employees on the payrolls of Texas businesses than during the economic downfall of 2008, per The Washington Post.

As governor, Perry was known for his push for renewable energy initiatives — particularly wind power. Texas is the largest producer of wind power in the country and during his tenure, the state acquired more than 160 times the wind generating capacity it had when he took office, according to NPR.

Perry is also known for his ties to oil and gas industries. After leaving his position as governor, he joined the corporate board for Energy Transfer Partners, the company attempting to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. He later resigned from his position upon being appointed by President Donald Trump as energy secretary.

Last year, Perry was a contestant on the television show “Dancing with the Stars,” but was eliminated in an early round. In an interview with People Magazine, he said his appearance on the show was helpful to the Republican Party.

“People got to see a Republican that they may have thought was some stuffed shirt — you know, right-wing, crazy whack job or however they would like to identify us — and over the course of the last month, people got to see a person I think that they came to enjoy being around and liked,” he said in the interview.

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