Rick Perry has no idea whether Trump plans to gut the Energy Department

The nominee for energy secretary stressed the importance of research — which Trump promised to cut.

Energy Secretary-designate, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is sworn-in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, prior to testifying at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Energy Secretary-designate, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is sworn-in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, prior to testifying at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) told members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday that the Trump administration, where he has been nominated to serve as secretary of energy, will protect funding for energy and efficiency research.

“I have no questions at all about whether or not the Trump administration is going to be very supportive of keeping America strong and free in the technologies that come out of DOE,” Perry said.

Unfortunately, as with so much about the Energy Department, it seems Perry was not fully informed.

During his campaign, president-elect Donald Trump repeatedly vowed to cut the federal budget — and the only way he could make those cuts reality would be to cut research spending. On Thursday, the Hill reported the full scope of the planned cutbacks, which include severe reductions at the Energy Department.

“At the Department of Energy, [the administration] would roll back funding for nuclear physics and advanced scientific computing research to 2008 levels, eliminate the Office of Electricity, eliminate the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and scrap the Office of Fossil Energy, which focuses on technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” the Hill reports.

It’s hard to reconcile those plans with Perry’s opening remarks. “I support the academic and the government mission of basic research, even when you may not see the results of that for a generation,” he said. “Our scientists and our labs are the envy of the world.”

Ironically, research and support for emerging technologies — which has been lambasted by the right for the duration of the Obama administration — seems pretty popular now, at least among the senators of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“We need you to come out there and help us continue to develop and commercialize [clean coal] technology,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) told Perry.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) urged the nominee to invest in clean coal research, saying, “We can lead in America with this technology or we will cede this to the Chinese.”

Perry pointed out that fracking, which has completely upended the fossil fuel industries, “had its genesis at the Department of Energy,” and said he supports continued investment in new technologies.

“I do believe there is a role for us to play, both at the state level and at the federal level to continue to put forward, funded by our taxpayer dollars, technologies that can in fact make us more efficient, make us more economically viable, improve our quality of life, and that is my record,” he said.

Perry joked that perhaps Trump would forget about the promises he was elected on.