Perry says: ‘Yes sir,’ warming is real

Source: Benjamin Hulac, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, October 16, 2017

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said climate change is a threat to the United States yesterday as he defended coal subsidies and denied that free-market capitalism exists in the energy world.

At a subcommittee hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) asked Perry about the risks from rising temperatures.

“Do you think that climate change is in any way a threat to our nation?” McNerney asked. Perry replied simply, “Yes sir, I do.”

McNerney then asked if the head of the Energy Department sees a “relation” between severe weather and climate change. “Most likely, yes sir,” Perry replied, before quickly adding that he and the congressman would agree climate change is real. “Where we may or may not agree is just how much of this is man’s fault,” Perry said. “I don’t believe climate change is 100 percent man’s fault.”

The remarks further muddied Perry’s stance on climate change, which scientists overwhelmingly say is caused by the burning fossil fuels.

In June, during an interview with CNBC, Perry rejected a question about whether carbon dioxide is the “primary control knob” of Earth’s temperature and climate.

“No, primarily the primary control know is ocean waters and the environment that we live in,” Perry said, noting that climate skepticism is “quite all right.”

During his Capitol Hill stop yesterday, Perry defended his plan to pay coal and nuclear power plants to stockpile large quantities of fuel, telling lawmakers that former President Obama overly favored “green energy” (Climatewire, Oct. 11).

“They put their thumb on that scale,” he said. “Elections have consequences.”

Perry, a Republican who was the longest-serving governor in the history of Texas, a state with a deep libertarian streak, defended federal efforts to prop up energy companies.

“I don’t think that you have this perfect free-market world,” he said, calling free markets for utilities a “fallacy.”

Washington subsidizes ethanol, wind and solar power, along with oil and gas companies, he said. “The question is, how do you make it as fair as you can?”

Perry added, “We have subsidized the energy industry for a long time, and I frankly don’t have a problem with that.”

Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) said talk about climate change is a diversion.

“I think it’s a distraction when we start going down that path,” he said in a brief interview.

Democrats gave Perry low marks for acknowledging that climate change is serious.

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) chuckled about it after the hearing. “Good for him that he answered what the majority of scientists and people across the world believe,” she said in a brief interview. “But the policies of the administration run counter to that.”

The highest-ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), was unimpressed with Perry’s responses.

“I didn’t get any really penetrating answers from him,” he said. “He was quite glib.”