I first met Rick Perry when I was Legislative Aide to Texas Representative Harvey Hilderbran. Back then, Perry was a three-term Democratic State Representative—albeit a fairly conservative one. The Young Conservatives of Texas rates lawmakers on a scale from 0 (most liberal) to 100 (most conservative). Representative Perry received YCT ratings of 73, 90, and 61, respectively, over his three terms. Nonetheless, Perry worked for Democrat Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 1988. While historians debate whether Perry was Gore’s Texas campaign coordinator or co-chair, the former speaker pro tempore of the Texas House confirmed that whether he “was a coordinator or co-chair, (Perry) was involved.”
It turned out that Gore’s campaign was Perry’s last stand as a Democrat. Less than a year later, Rick Perry held a press conference and announced he was switching political parties. Now a Republican, Perry’s star rose quickly: (i) 1994-1998 – Texas Agriculture Commissioner; (ii) 1998-2000 – Texas Lieutenant Governor; and (iii) 2000-2015 – Texas Governor. He also sought the Republican nomination for President of the United States.
Since leaving office, Governor Perry has been active in the energy industry. He serves on the Board of Directors of Energy Transfer Partners, which operates ~71,000 miles of natural gas and oil pipelines. Energy Transfer has been in the news a lot lately as its Dakota Access Pipeline has been frequently protested by Native American activists.
But what kind of energy policy can we expect from a Secretary Perry? Below are Perry’s own words on five key issues:
- Climate Change. “The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy in jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just nonsense.” Nonetheless, Perry supports an all of the above approach to energy, stating “I clearly believe that there is an important role for green energy sources as a part of our generation mix.”
- Carbon Taxation and Subsidies. “We don’t need to be subsidizing energy in any form or fashion.” Republican strategist Grover Norquist also believes that carbon taxes are off the table: “one of the things I’d not worry about is a carbon tax. I’d worry about big spiders eating New Jersey first.”
- Regulations. “We will return greater regulatory authority to the states to manage air and water quality rather than imposing one-size-fits-all federal rules.” The combination of Texas’ Perry at DOE and Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt at EPA should lighten the regulatory burden on the energy industry.
- Infrastructure Projects. Perry supports “authorizing the export of American natural gas” and “approving the construction of the Keystone pipeline.”
- Drilling on Federal Lands and Waters. “[W]e will open several American oil and gas fields for exploration that are currently off limits because of political considerations.”
21st century energy policy is largely a means to other ends. Democrats use it to further their climate change agenda. Republicans like Rick Perry use it to advance economic growth. As Forbes recently explained:
“Affordable energy is a powerful economic stimulant. Energy costs are a factor in virtually all goods and services bought and sold in our economy. When energy prices are lower, the costs of producing goods and services are lower, which operates like a tax cut. People and businesses can purchase more goods and services at lower prices. Also, people and businesses have more money left over from their direct energy bills. This extra money allows people to buy more goods and services that make life healthier, longer-lasting, and more enjoyable. The extra money also allows businesses to expand and hire more workers.”
Just as President Obama’s selection of Nobel Laureate Chu as his Energy Secretary signaled a focus on climate change, so too does Perry’s appointment herald a new one: economic growth.
In a year of extraordinary turns, leave it to President-elect Trump to nominate Al Gore’s former disciple as his Secretary of Energy. Vice President Gore believes that Americans need to make hard economic sacrifices to reduce their carbon emissions. Gore’s documentary on the subject, An Inconvenient Truth, so galvanized the Democratic Party that its national platform now calls for America to end its reliance on fossils fuels—entirely. Now along comes Rick Perry, once Al Gore’s follower, to knock climate change from its pedestal.
About the Gaille Energy Blog. The Gaille Energy Blog discusses issues in the field of energy law, with weekly posts at http://www.gaillelaw.com. Scott Gaille is a Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago Law School, an Adjunct Professor in Management at Rice University’s Graduate School of Business, and the author of two books on energy law (Shale Energy Development and International Energy Development).