Trump picks renewable energy policy skeptic to lead DOE office

Trump picks renewable energy policy skeptic to lead DOE office
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President Trump has named Dan Simmons, an opponent of policies meant to promote renewable energy, to lead the renewable energy office at the Department of Energy.

Simmons formerly worked at the Institute for Energy Research, a self-styled, free-market energy think tank that is funded largely by fossil fuel interests.

An Energy official announced Simmons’s appointment to lead the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) in a recent email to employees, which noted that Simmons started at the department during the Trump administration’s transition period.

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His appointment was first reported by E&E News.

Under former President Obama, EERE had an aggressive agenda focused on grants, research and development, promotion and other efforts to reduce the costs of renewable energy and efficiency technology and get it into the market.

It was at least somewhat responsible for a dramatic drop in the costs of solar power technology during the Obama administration, along with a major increase in solar deployment.

Trump has proposed to cut EERE’s funding by 53 percent.

As vice president at the Institute for Energy Research, Simmons was largely responsible for pushing against pro-renewables policies such as subsidies and tax breaks for the use of wind and solar power.

“I think that everything should be treated equally across the board,” he said last year at an event hosted by Politico. “We have to look at the track record of the oil and gas industry, producing low-cost, reliable energy, particularly when the alternative is much, much higher prices.”

The Institute for Energy Research’s president, Tom Pyle, led Trump’s transition operation for the Department of Energy, but has since returned to his job. The group’s advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance, endorsed Trump for president last year in its first-ever political candidate endorsement.

Simmons previously worked at the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council and the House Natural Resources Committee.

Simmons’s title will be acting assistant secretary. Trump has yet to formally nominate someone to the position of assistant secretary for the office — which requires Senate confirmation — and it is not clear if Simmons would be nominated.