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Mackowiak: Perry’s public service record will benefit Energy Department


Let’s consider what former Texas Gov. Rick Perry brings to the table as a member of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet and as the president’s designee as Secretary of Energy:

• He was the longest-serving governor in the history of the nation’s second-largest state

• He has 24 years of executive experience, having served as agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor and governor.

• Our nation’s energy industry is headquartered in Houston.

From a political standpoint, Perry is a credible choice — he is confirmable, motivated and mission-driven.

Energy issues are not unimportant to him.

I happened to attend a speech that then-presidential candidate Rick Perry gave outside Pittsburgh in August 2011. That energy plan was comprehensive, an “all-of-the-above” proposal and thorough.

Perry has been animated for many years about the potential for an American energy renaissance to dramatically reduce the cost of manufacturing, allowing those offshore jobs to return home by making the U.S. competitive again. It’s a subject he has talked about many times in speeches and interviews.

Perhaps now would be a good time to review what the U.S. Department of Energy does.

According to the Fiscal Year 2017 budget request that the Energy Department submitted to Congress with a $30 billion asking price, the department supports that national laboratory system of 17 sites. Fully one-third of their budget request goes to security for nuclear plants. A large amount of their budget goes to research and development in energy — especially in renewables. The Energy Department supports President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and energy efficiency and reliability among other things.

There are some worthy programs here, but is the Energy Department worth $30 billion a year when they produce exactly zero energy?

Perhaps this explains why Perry was the choice.

I highly suspect that Energy Secretary Perry will take a chisel to the department, both from a cost-cutting standpoint and especially from a regulatory standpoint.

A little-known fact over the past eight years is that the lion’s share of the oil and gas development in the U.S. has been exclusively on state and private lands. Federal land has been locked up by the Obama administration, even when states like Alaska wish to have safe energy exploration occur in their state.

The Trump administration will remove many of the irrational barriers to safe energy exploration on federal lands nationwide, which will make America a net-energy exporter and help grow our economy, particularly as the price of oil continues to rebound.

It is a fact that the famous “third Cabinet agency that he forgot” that he wanted to eliminate was the Energy Department. Perry will be asked about this and about his proposed elimination plan at his confirmation hearing in late January. Demonstrating humanity should not be a disqualifier for public service.

After Perry left the governorship in 2014, he joined a few corporate boards, gave speeches and began working in the private sector while he and his wife, Anita, watched their daughter get married and spent time with their grandchildren. They’ve been spending a lot of time in their new dream home halfway between Austin and Houston, not far from College Station and Aggieland.

It is easy to forget the sacrifice that serving in the Cabinet requires.

Federal law will require Perry to stop his private sector endeavors, move to expensive Washington, D.C., and devote 18-hour workdays for two to four years to be effective. This is a job he has signed up for — and it is one that he is well-equipped to do.

Elitist snobs have noted that Perry does not have the educational credentials of his two predecessors, but education comes in many forms. Perhaps serving as governor for 14 years of our nation’s premier energy state is an education all by itself.

In this role, I expect that Perry will thrive. It is good for Texas and for the country that he and his wife are willing to sacrifice at this time in their lives for another round of public service.

Mackowiak is syndicated columnist, an Austin-based Republican consultant and a former Capitol Hill and Bush administration aide.



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