Rick Perry Is the Wrong Choice for Energy Secretary

   < < Go Back
from The New York Times,

Much has been made of the irony of Rick Perry’s nomination to be the next secretary of energy. He would oversee a department that he wanted to eliminate as a Republican presidential candidate in the 2012 primaries, though he couldn’t remember its name during a debate.

But there are much more serious reasons to be concerned about this nomination. In terms of qualifications, Mr. Perry, a former governor of Texas, doesn’t come close to his immediate predecessors. He would follow President Obama’s two energy secretaries: first, Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate physicist, and then Ernest J. Moniz, a distinguished nuclear physicist from M.I.T.

There are reasons the appointment of scientists to this position was and is particularly appropriate, especially now. While investment in new sources of energy (a subject on which both Mr. Chu and Mr. Moniz are experts) is a part of the energy secretary’s portfolio, by far the largest part of the department’s budget involves the stewardship of nuclear weapons, and research and development associated with the nuclear weapons complex. Moreover, the Department of Energy is the chief source of support for research in the physical sciences in the United States, providing far more money than the National Science Foundation, and supporting, among other things, fundamental inquiry in areas ranging from particle physics to cosmology.

Presumably Governor Perry wanted to do away with the Energy Department because he perceived it as the source of unwanted regulation in the energy sector, and also because he felt that private enterprise was sufficient to meet the nation’s needs in that area. Whether that view is valid, the energy secretary should be someone who is at least familiar with the strategic issues associated with both nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and ideally someone who is capable of digging down into the complex issues facing the United States in these areas. The next energy secretary should also have at least a modicum of policy experience with some of the vast array of fundamental science supported by the agency.

More From The New York Times: