Fossil fuel advocate tapped to lead DOE's renewables, efficiency office

Dive Brief:

  • E&E News reports President Trump will select Daniel Simmons, former director of the natural resources task force at the American Legislative Exchange Council, to head the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE).
  • ALEC is a corporate-funded conservative group that drafts model bills and policies for its legislative members to take back to their home states. In recent years, it has turned its attention to rolling back energy sector regulations.
  • The move is another signal from the new White House that Trump will continue to follow through on campaign pledges to undo restrictions and limits on fossil fuel production, while paying less attention to clean energy issues.

Dive Insight:

E&E News reported this week that Simmons, who also formerly worked with the Koch-funded Institute for Energy Research, will be tapped to lead the DOE's renewables and efficiency office. It is a peculiar posting for a man who has opposed clean energy incentives and warned of higher energy prices that can result.

The Washington Post notes that Simmons, at an energy forum last year hosted by Politico, said "I think that everything should be treated equally across the board. ... We have to look at the track record of the oil and gas industry [which is] producing low-cost, reliable energy, particularly when the alternative is much, much higher prices.”

However, his stance does not align with moves within the power sector to invest more in renewable energy as solar and wind costs reach grid parity. There is also wide-spread support within the power sector for the wind production tax credit and the solar investment tax credit. 

The move appears in line with other postings President Trump has made, including appointing former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, a controversial pick given that in his home state he often joined oil and gas companies in challenging federal environmental regulations. 

Last week, Trump also nominated David Bernhardt, an industry lobbyist, to serve as deputy secretary at the Department of the Interior. Bernhardt formerly represented oil and gas companies at Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck.

“Appointing a lobbyist like Bernhardt shows just how empty Donald Trump’s promise to drain the swamp was,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “From Scott Pruitt to Ryan Zinke, and now David Bernhardt, President Trump has assembled the most anti-environmental administration in history.”

While a weekend budget compromise appeared to save significant energy and environmental funding, the Congressional deal cut renewable energy programs at DOE by $808 million compared to the previous Administration’s budget request. And the budget compromise will only last until the end of the fiscal year, which is September. While Democrats can easily claim a victory in this budget fight, next year will likely be an uphill battle as the Trump administration gains more experience and solidify policy directives.  

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Filed Under: Generation Solar & Renewables
Top image credit: DOE