US President-elect Trump names officers

14 December 2016

Donald Trump today announced his intention to nominate former Texas governor Rick Perry as US Energy Secretary when his administration takes office in January. The President-elect said yesterday ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is to be nominated as Secretary of State.

Perry served as governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015, and is described by Trump's transition committee as "one of the most successful governors in modern history".

"As the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry created a business climate that produced millions of new jobs and lower energy prices in his state, and he will bring that same approach to our entire country as Secretary of Energy," Trump said. "My administration is going to make sure we take advantage of our huge natural resource deposits to make America energy independent and create vast new wealth for our nation, and Rick Perry is going to do an amazing job as the leader of that process."

Perry ran in the early stages of the latest race for the US presidency, but withdrew in September 2015. He also ran for President in 2012, saying that if elected he would eliminate the Department of Energy. He has previously called for restrictions on exploration for coal, oil and gas to be loosened.

Today, Perry said: "It is a tremendous honour to be selected to serve as Secretary of Energy by President-elect Trump," saying he was "deeply humbled" at his nomination. "As the former governor of the nation's largest energy producing state, I know American energy is critical to our economy and our security. I look forward to engaging in a conversation about the development, stewardship and regulation of our energy resources, safeguarding our nuclear arsenal, and promoting an American energy policy that creates jobs and puts America first," he said.

The World Coal Association (WCA) welcomed Perry's appointment. WCA CEO Benjamin Sporton said Perry was an "excellent choice", bringing to the role "remarkable and broad experience; a deep understanding; and a belief that all energy sources are imperative if we are to reach climate targets and also meet global energy demands." He said his organisation looked forward to working with Perry "to press ahead with cleaner coal technologies and encourage investment in carbon capture and storage".

The USA's current energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, is the former Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and director of its Energy Initiative and its Laboratory for Energy and the Environment. He was sworn in as secretary in May 2013, after his nomination was confirmed by unanimous vote by the full US Senate.

Tillerson nomination

Yesterday, Trump announced his intention to appoint Tillerson as Secretary of State - the President's chief foreign affairs adviser overseeing foreign policy through the State Department. The current US Secretary of State is John Kerry.

"I have chosen one of the truly great business leaders of the world, Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, to be Secretary of State," Trump tweeted yesterday.

Tillerson said he was "honoured" to be nominated and shared the President-elect's "vision for restoring the credibility" of US foreign relations and advancing US national security. "We must focus on strengthening our alliances, pursuing shared national interests and enhancing the strength, security and sovereignty of the United States," he said.

However, Democrat senator Tom Carper, who currently serves on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, questioned how Tillerson's oil industry background would suit this international role. "The Secretary of State also serves as our chief negotiator on international agreements, including commitments to combat the growing threat of climate change, like the Paris Agreement that went into effect last month," he said. "We cannot afford to reverse the progress we've made in combating climate change. Our next Secretary of State must uphold our promises to the nearly 200 nations who agree that climate change is real and that we must act to limit its effects. Mr. Tillerson's 30-year career lobbying for the fossil fuel industry stands in stark opposition to these promises and our responsibility to protect our environment for generations to come." Carper said it would be "critical" that he and his fellow senators "hear directly from Mr. Tillerson on these incredibly important issues during the upcoming confirmation process."

Full glass for nuclear

Ahead of the announcement of Perry and Tillerson's nominations, Maria Korsnick, who will become president and CEO of the US Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) on 1 January, said she expected the incoming Trump administration would favour nuclear energy. Bipartisan support for nuclear energy would continue in the US Congress, she said.

"President-elect Donald Trump has indicated a favourable view toward nuclear energy. His stated philosophy of lowering regulation should help with efforts to lessen the burden on existing, high-performing nuclear power plants," she said on 12 December. "As yet unknown is how he might view possible efforts by agencies such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to recognize and value what our plants provide in reliability, fuel diversity, grid stability and 'fuel firmness' - that is, their ability to operate around-the-clock for 18 to 24 months at a time because all their fuel is on-site," she said.

Korsnick said the NEI looked forward to working with the new administration and continuing its "strong, bipartisan" working relationship with the US Congress. "We believe Trump will work with Congress and regulators to preserve and expand domestic nuclear energy so that it remains a vital component of our overall national energy infrastructure," she said.

Asked whether, amid political uncertainty, nuclear could consider its "glass half-empty or half-full," Korsnick said it was definitely full. "Nuclear energy's value proposition still exists, and it still matters. I couldn't be more excited to play a part in seeing nuclear energy's value fully recognised, and to see policies put in place that help achieve a stronger, healthier world for generations to come," she said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News