Rick Perry touts ‘new direction’ for energy policy based on Obama-era achievements

Nations should embrace "clean" fossil fuels, "for their own sake and for the sake of the world."

Rick Perry at CERA Week. CREDIT: Screenshot
Rick Perry at CERA Week. CREDIT: Screenshot

Energy Secretary Rick Perry addressed members of the oil and gas industry Wednesday, and laid out his vision for a fossil-fuel powered future.

“Today we have the opportunity to reaffirm a new direction. I call it the new energy realism,” he told the audience at CERA Week, an annual energy conference in Houston, Texas.

The crux of this “new energy realism,” he said, rests on innovation and imagination. And Obama-era achievements.

Perry pointed to the 14 percent drop in carbon emissions from the U.S. energy sector in 2016, compared to 2005 levels, as proof that “our environment didn’t become worse by any measure, even as our economy expanded and energy development rose.”

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“We don’t need to choose between growing our economy and caring for our environment,” he said. “That is at the heart of this new energy realism.”

The United States’ recent decline in greenhouse gas emissions is mainly due to the growth of more affordable renewable energy, the transition from coal to natural gas, and improvements in energy efficiency. And new studies have shown that renewables have played an equal role to natural gas in helping reduce emissions.

But this evidence for Perry’s “new direction” for energy comes in part because of President Obama’s energy and environment policies. While oil and natural gas production grew under Obama, power plants started making the switch to cleaner sources of energy in reaction to both unprofitable coal and Obama’s proposed emissions limits under the Clean Power Plan, expanding renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.

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The Trump administration, however, has reversed this course. Last year, President Trump announced that he U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate agreement and the administration is currently working to repeal the Clean Power Plan. It has increased funding for coal technology while cutting funding for renewables.

As Perry asserted, “clean” fossil fuels is the way forward.

“Listen, we support renewables,” he told the audience. But, he said, the focus on zero-emission technologies under the Paris agreement was not the right approach. “What are we supposed to do in the meantime?” he asked, referring to projections showing that fossil fuels will be part of the energy mix for years to come.

Instead, he said, the U.S. would welcome a global coalition of countries with the goal of making fossil fuels cleaner, “rather than abandoning them.” This, combined with exporting U.S. fossil fuels abroad, would help developing nations lift out of poverty, Perry argued.

Using so-called “clean coal” and natural gas “is the new energy realism,” Perry said.

“Thanks to the amazing power of human ingenuity and innovation we don’t have to tolerate the intolerable,” he continued. “We don’t have to accept hideous sacrifices that harm the poorest among us. As we progress towards zero emissions as a goal, we can still reduce emissions without draining the growth of our developing nations or dooming developing nations to a future of poverty and want.”

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Climate change, however, driven by emissions from fossil fuels, disproportionately impacts poor, minority communities and developing nations.

Rather than acknowledging this, Perry concluded his speech by stating: “It is by embracing this new energy realism that we will all move towards greater energy security and a brighter more prosperous future. Let all nations embrace it.”

“For their own sake and for the sake of the world.”