The Administration

Rick Perry will ‘breathe life’ into Department of Energy

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Anyone who knows Rick Perry knows he can’t sit still; he is always thinking and working on ways to push the envelope for new approaches and ideas. Heck, admit you were surprised to see the country boy from Paint Creek, Texas  — population 324 — D-J’ing with Vanilla Ice on Dancing With The Stars. That took energy, confidence and a willingness to try a new approach. 

As governor of Texas, Perry inspired unprecedented job growth with his push for innovation and research investment with lower tax and regulatory burdens for businesses. For those of you who aren’t, “from these parts,” here are some of Governor Perry’s accomplishments:

  • He increased funding for cancer research, which has spurred breakthroughs throughout healthcare.
  • Perry launched enterprise and technology funding programs that helped make Texas a new Silicon Valley.
  • He recruited businesses aggressively, including 54 Fortune 500 companies that now make Texas their headquarters — second only to New York’s 55.
  • He fought to preserve a low tax environment that led to his election for three consecutive terms. 

So what might the Department of Energy look like under Rick Perry? My best assessment is that innovation will be its hallmark and Perry will seek to expand the research and innovation capabilities and offerings of the agency through nuclear and scientific research and technological innovation.

Nuclear and scientific research: Look for Perry’s DOE to provide grants to researchers for nuclear power options, smart grid technology and clean energy. In fact, for years one couldn’t say “Texas” and “energy” without mentioning oil and gas.

Texas is making a similar mark in wind power. Thanks to the expansion of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, Texas boasts more than 10,000 wind turbines, producing four times more wind power than California and three times more than Iowa.

In fact, on one February day this year, Texas provided 45 percent of its total electricity at a consistent rate, passing its own record for wind energy production.

I would not be surprised to see him on Capitol Hill soon, championing additional research in fuel cell technologies that use hydrogen-producing algae, or clean solar technology.

No one knows better than Rick Perry that diversification is as important in energy as it is in finance. He’s proven his acumen from a business standpoint, and he can do the same from an energy perspective. 

Technology – Beyond clean energy research, technology is vital to safeguard the environment, streamline regulations and grow jobs through existing energy resources. In Texas, Perry was a key advocate for carbon capture and sequestration/storage (CCS), methane capture and use, and a voluntary cap-and-trade program through an exchange.

Greenfacts, a major European-funded environmental technology foundation, stated that, “CCS systems will be competitive with other large-scale mitigation options such as nuclear power and renewable energy technologies.” 

Although coal’s share of global energy production will surely decline, the actual energy output from coal burning, and its pollution threat, will remain roughly at current levels.

Even the most optimistic studies project our use of coal through the end of this century. CCS can clean those lingering coal-burning plants around the world. 

In 2010, Perry advanced the commercialization of carbon capture technology through the Texas Clean Energy Project (TCEP). Key to this international effort was a high-tech carbon capture facility in Penwell, Texas.

Under the plan, gases from the carbon capture process were to be piped directly to hydrocarbon field reserves to help recover more oil and gas. Due to fire up in 2017, the Obama administration abruptly cancelled all federal funding for TCEP.  

{mosads}If Perry were to get TCEP funding restored, Penwell’s 400 MW power/polygeneration project will also produce urea for the U.S. fertilizer market and capture 90 percent of its carbon dioxide — approximately 2 million tons each year — which will be used for enhanced oil recovery and fracking operations in the West Texas Permian Basin. 

The segue into fracking is a logical one. Rick Perry could legitimately claim the moniker of the “godfather” of the new American energy independence, which is based on fracking.

One of Rick Perry’s most hard-fought contributions during his tenure as governor was advancing fracking technology at a time when much of the country was against any further development of U.S. oil and gas resources.

For decades, many energy experts assumed that natural U.S. oil reserves were in a permanent decline. Fracking dramatically changed the equation.

The result is our current national energy independence, which the Obama administration laid faint claim to once or twice.

Perry challenged naysayers to come up with definitive science that fracking was harmful to the environment, defending the jobs and energy independence it was creating.

Yet, in that defense, he encouraged and legislated enhanced transparency. One of his last acts as governor was signing a bill requiring full disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracture — the first such bill of its kind.

Innovation also applies to program approaches critical to all aspects of the Department of Energy. How much does the department spend on energy program areas versus cleaning up the legacy waste from the cold war, weapons programs and national labs – or any program areas that run on forever with huge associated costs?

Innovative technical approaches could help solve some serious clean-up issues, rather than following the same tired prescriptions year after year.

He will bring a fresh set of eyes and approaches to examine not only “how things are done,” but on actually “getting things done.”

Perry was an energetic leader for Texas, channeling that dynamic leadership into energy innovation, research and technology enhancement, while promoting policies that make sense for businesses, the environment and our self-reliance on our own natural resources.

It points to a promising future in energy. He will breathe life into a previously dormant Department of Energy.


Thomas Graham is founder, president and CEO of Crosswind Media & Public Relations based in Austin, Texas. He was the Public Relations Director for former Republican Texas State Senator Teel Bivins.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags fracking energy Innovation Rick Perry Technology U.S. Department of Energy

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