Trump nominates climate doubter Simmons to head DOE renewables office
- President Donald Trump has nominated Daniel Simmons, a former fossil fuel lobbyist who has questioned climate science, to head the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).
- Simmons, currently the principal deputy assistant secretary in that office, is the former vice president of policy at the Institute for Energy Research (IER), a coal- and oil-backed think tank, and the American Energy Alliance (AEA), its lobbying arm. In 2015, AEA called for the elimination of the EERE office.
- Simmons has said recently that he "likes" renewable energy and efficiency, but critics say his appointment is part of a conservative strategy — outlined in an IER memo — to nominate DOE officials "dedicated to hit reset on the Obama administration's harmful policies."
Simmons, who has headed EERE on a temporary basis since last year, is the latest climate doubter and fossil fuel ally to be given a top energy role under the Trump administration.
From 2008 to 2017, Simmons worked for IER and AEA, which receive funding from oil interests like Koch Industries and coal companies like Peabody Energy. During that time, AEA pushed Congress to completely defund EERE, writing that the office "aims to control multiple sectors of the economy, from energy production and transmission to manufacturing and construction."
Simmons also authored materials that questioned mainstream climate science during his time leading the Natural Resources Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative policymaking group, from 2005 to 2008.
ALEC convenes state legislators and private companies to craft model legislation behind closed doors. In 2007, Simmons co-authored a guide for lawmakers on energy and environmental issues that questioned climate science, notes the Energy and Policy Institute, a liberal watchdog group.
The ALEC report denies that greenhouse gas emissions are "increasing the rate of sea level rise," as well as their connection to higher temperatures.
"Al Gore is indeed correct that there is a correlation between carbon dioxide increased and temperature, but the connection is the opposite of what he assumes," the report reads. "The studies show that carbon dioxide follow temperature, not the other way around."
ALEC has often been a venue for conservative attacks on clean energy — most recently by IER, Simmons' last employer. In April, IER backed a policy resolution against electric vehicles at ALEC's spring meeting, pushing lawmakers to pledge opposition to subsidies for non-gas vehicles and utility ownership of EV charging stations. Electric utilities and UPS banded together to defeat the resolution.
IER has also had a major role in the Trump administration's energy policies. IER President Tom Pyle led Trump's DOE transition team that counted Simmons as a member, and former IER economist Travis Fisher is now an advisor to Kevin McIntyre, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, after leading DOE's high-profile grid reliability study last year.
After the 2016 election, Pyle wrote a memo praising Trump for selecting "several longtime IER and AEA allies" to lead energy transition teams.
"Given the personnel that is in place and our involvement with the process we are confident that the Trump administration will nominate candidates who embrace free market ideals and who are dedicated to hitting reset on the Obama administration's harmful policies," Pyle wrote.
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