Rick Perry's Nomination To Lead Energy Department Raises Concerns Over National Labs The former Texas governor once wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy. Perry and Donald Trump have doubted climate science, an key area of research at some of the department's 17 national labs.
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Scientists Concerned For Future Of National Labs As Rick Perry Seeks Top Energy Post

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Scientists Concerned For Future Of National Labs As Rick Perry Seeks Top Energy Post

Scientists Concerned For Future Of National Labs As Rick Perry Seeks Top Energy Post

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The man Donald Trump has tapped to lead the Department of Energy is the same former presidential candidate who once said that agency should be eliminated. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has his confirmation hearing today. Grace Hood from Colorado Public Radio reports.

GRACE HOOD, BYLINE: When a solar company wants to test new technology, they bring their panels here...

CHRIS DELINE: So this is the outdoor test facility.

HOOD: ...to the National Renewable Energy Lab near Denver. Lab engineer Chris Deline says federal scientists here measure how powerful and long-lasting panels are so consumers know what they're buying.

DELINE: A lot of times, maybe people don't even know how to evaluate new technologies appropriately. And so we have a lot of insight and knowledge into the market that can help with some of those decisions.

HOOD: Research at the Department of Energy's 17 national labs is wide-ranging, from fossil fuel-based energy to understanding dark matter in the universe. Under the Obama administration, research and development dollars flowed into renewable energy. But both President-elect Donald Trump and Energy Department nominee Rick Perry have at times questioned climate science. Here's Perry in 2011 at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICK PERRY: The issue of global warming has been politicized. I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling in to their projects.

HOOD: Perry's not a scientist, but Ken Kimmell with the Union of Concerned Scientists says that's not the issue.

KEN KIMMELL: We do have a concern that a secretary who doesn't fundamentally accept the science of climate change isn't necessarily going to direct the assets of the Department of Energy towards advancing that mission.

HOOD: On the other hand, Kimmell says that wind energy took off during Rick Perry's three terms as Texas governor. It was part of Perry's all-of-the-above energy approach. In one of his last public appearances outgoing Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz stressed the importance of clean energy research.

ERNEST MONIZ: I think we have an innovation edge compared to most. But we could certainly lose it if we don't keep this focus. And that will lead to lost market share. That will lead to lost jobs.

HOOD: Then there was that controversial questionnaire. The Trump transition team wanted the names of Energy Department workers who attended climate change meetings. Moniz refused, and Trump's team backed away. Last week, Moniz announced tougher measures for Department of Energy scientists to protect them from political meddling.

For NPR News, I'm Grace Hood in Denver, Colo.

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