Newly inaugurated President Donald Trump selected Rick Perry to run the Department of Energy (DOE). Last week, Perry testified in a confirmation hearing before the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and while it’s clear he supports policies that increase domestic energy production, he also indicated that he’ll support DOE’s efforts for energy efficiency in buildings.
Perry said he’d continue to back DOE’s role in pioneering new energy-efficiency technologies. He also pledged to help Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) pass the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, also known as the Shaheen-Portman bill in honor of the Ohio lawmaker and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), the co-sponsors.
A study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that by 2030, Shaheen-Portman could create more than 190,000 jobs, save consumers $16.2 billion a year, and drastically reduce CO2 emissions.
Shaheen-Portman would strengthen national model building codes to make new commercial buildings and homes more energy efficient. It would also help states and private industries make the code-writing process more transparent, and train the next generation of workers in energy-efficient commercial building design. Additionally, it would let federal agencies use existing funds to use the most current efficiency standards in new federal buildings.
“We were pleased to hear Gov. Perry voice support for the department’s role in advancing new technologies, and specifically for energy efficiency when he pledged to help Sen. Portman and others on the committee pass the bipartisan Portman-Shaheen legislation that nearly crossed the finish line last year,” said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. “Gov. Perry said it right – the Energy Department does some of the most important R&D anywhere in the world, and this includes their pioneering work on energy efficiency. The department is driving innovation that is helping to grow the U.S. economy by making us more efficient, productive and competitive.”
Perry took a multi-pronged approach to energy policy during his time as governor of Texas. He was a strong supporter of fossil fuels (oil production surged by 260 percent in Texas during his tenure), but he also backed policies that made Texas the top producer of wind power in the U.S., according to a December 2016 profile by the Texas Tribune.
And he was a major proponent of building energy codes. For example, in 2001, Texas adopted the International Residential Code (IRC), the first state in the nation to do so. The state has also embraced green building in a big way. According to a 2015 study by the U.S. Green Building Council, the state was projected to add almost 1.26 million green construction jobs between 2015 and 2018.
When he ran for president in 2011, Perry pledged to eliminate the DOE. (He also famously forgot the name of the agency during a debate.) But during this week’s Senate confirmation hearing, he said he regretted taking that position.
“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” Perry told the committee.
Perry has also questioned the degree to which human activity causes climate change, but he told the committee that global warming is real and should be handled “in a thoughtful way that doesn’t compromise economic growth.”