If he'd tuned in, he would have heard the economic case for keeping America's commitment to clean energy strong. And if liberals had been listening, they would have heard the case for giving Rick Perry, the new secretary of the Department of Energy, a chance.
Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow invited Marilu Hastings, the vice president of sustainability programs at the Mitchell Foundation, on his Monday radio show to talk about Perry's record of support for renewables. Hastings argued in a recent op-ed that Perry should be judged by his whole record — which includes making Texas into a nation-leading wind state.
“Clean energy advocates should avoid a knee-jerk battle against President-elect Donald Trump's pick for secretary of energy. While former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is a self-proclaimed climate change denier, under his watch Texas became a leader in the U.S.'s transition to a clean energy economy,” wrote Hastings in January.
Marlow took issue with calling Perry a climate denier. (His publication gives a platform for the most caustic kind of climate change denial.) But he argued that conservative support for clean sources of energy can come separate from climate. “It's simply more efficient, it's better for markets, it's better for the environment in general. Not because we're so focused on climate change.”
“That doesn't mean he's not going to do things to move the American energy industry into a greener, more environmentally-friendly, more sustainable trend. And that's something that we welcome, because we do like the environment,” said Marlow.
This is the same argument made by Debbie Dooley, the Tea Partying warfighter who's been facing off with utilities in Georgia and Florida over giving solar access to the grid. “If you mention climate change, they’re going to tune you out,” she once said of her compatriots.
Speaking on Marlow's show yesterday, Hastings agreed with that premise.
“Innovation, technology, global leadership — those are the things that matter in this debate. And what Perry did in Texas very much shows the path forward under the Trump administration's energy and environment policies,” she argued.
“We agree, generally, registered voters overwhelmingly agree about environmental protection. We generally as a country support that. And the difference seems to be that the last administration had one way of achieving environmental protection — the Trump administration and conservatives in general have a different way. And while we all can agree on environmental protection, the path to get there is different,” she said.
So far, the Trump administration has not laid out a policy path for clean sources of energy. If anything, the president's past skepticism about climate change, his deep proposed budget cuts at DOE and EPA, and his unwillingness to talk about anything but fossil fuels, throws the future of U.S. clean energy policy in question.
But in Hastings' view, the Texas experience could be a positive influence on the Trump White House.
“They built $17 billion worth of transmission lines from West Texas to East Texas where the demand was. They established incentives for utilities to use more renewable energy, which helped establish the wind industry in Texas — which is the largest in the country. And solar is growing. And this is 100,000 new jobs for people, for Texans, who need good, high-paying jobs. They're about $75,000 a year in salary. So these are good jobs,” she said.
At the very least, argued Hastings, the government should maintain a strong commitment to research and development: “The rest of the global economy is moving towards clean energy and the United States needs to keep up with them. And one of the best ways to do that is to continue to enhance research and development into clean energy technologies.”
“There's a market failure in the sense that private companies are not very good at putting a lot of R&D resources into risky innovation research. And that's an important role for government in our perspective. There are legitimate roles for government. And we think expensive research and development that the private sector can't or doesn't have an incentive to do, it's an important role. And in this case, an important role for energy innovation is for DOE to help,” she said.
In his confirmation hearing, Perry backed “the continuation of using brilliant scientists, the private sector and universities in collaborating on finding solutions to challenges” in the energy sector.
What might that mean for the Trump agenda?
“He doesn't have to talk about climate. But he can be the global leader on the issue. He can set the agenda. He can take this country to the next-generation clean energy economy and he can do it in a market-driven way, and in ways that conservatives and the Republican party believe in. And he doesn't have to throw everything away. There is a path forward,” said Hastings.
Breitbart's Marlow agreed.
Listen to the interview below.