By Doug Marshall and Michele Combs
As president-elect Donald Trump continues to announce his cabinet picks, many were intrigued by his selection of our former governor to run the Energy Department. Why would Rick Perry be interested in running a department he once pledged to eliminate as governor?
It is important to start by dispelling a common myth: that Perry only favors gas and oil. People around the nation are often surprised to learn that renewable energy production in Texas exploded during Perry’s 15-year tenure as governor, as he built on and expanded upon the clean energy successes of previous Republican Gov. George W. Bush. From 2000 to 2015, Texas became the leading producer of wind energy in the U.S., going from 115 megawatts in 2000 to nearly 18,000 megawatts by the end of Perry’s administration in 2015. The success of the wind industry, coupled with other renewables, led to Texas consistently meeting and exceeding renewable energy standards during the first 15 years of the 21st century. The wind industry alone has created more than 25,000 jobs in the Lone Star State.
Perry’s acceptance of his nomination shows his belief that a true “all of the above” energy policy that accepts renewable energy can spur business development and create jobs for Americans. By taking a conservative, pro-business approach to energy reform, Texas has become the nation’s leader in energy production while creating new, 21st century jobs for hundreds of thousands of Americans. In his new role as Secretary of Energy, Perry and President-elect Trump should encourage states to deregulate their energy markets and allow the country to draw on its own God-given natural resources.
As Perry proved through his three successful re-elections, clean energy is popular among conservative voters. Recent national polling shows 75 percent of Trump voters support “action to accelerate the deployment and use of clean energy.” In a poll commissioned by the Young Conservatives for Energy Reform this fall, we found 73 percent of young conservatives have a favorable view of renewable energy and support investment into alternative and renewable energy sources. In short, clean energy is a prime opportunity to usher in policies that conservatives around the country overwhelmingly support.
Perry is in a unique position to directly tackle several of the priorities of the incoming Trump administration. The first of these priorities is, of course, jobs. By embracing renewable energy nationwide, Perry will be able to provide 21st century, American jobs. In early 2016, the number of clean energy jobs surpassed the number of oil, gas and coal extraction jobs in America. It is expected that clean energy will be responsible for 24 million jobs worldwide by 2030 if the world doubles its share of renewables in the global energy mix.
The second Trump priority that can be addressed through the Department of Energy is spurring support for home-grown renewables that increase our country’s energy independence. By achieving energy independence, America will no longer be beholden to Middle Eastern oil and will be in a better position to negotiate with oil rich nations.
The third policy priority is infrastructure. Improvements made to modernize the energy grid not only will make our grid more efficient (saving everyone money in the long run), but will allow for much-needed updates to our buildings and roads, and will create jobs.
The success of these priorities is already evident to those of us in Texas. We’ve seen, firsthand, the success that Perry had in our state. While Texas achieved success with a diverse portfolio, the rise of renewables (specifically, wind) did not result in higher rates for Texas residents. On the contrary, Texas enjoys some of the lowest electric rates in the country. Our families, young professionals and small businesses all have more money in their pockets because of the lower electricity bills powered by renewable energy.
As Perry takes the reins at the Department of Energy this January if confirmed, he has the opportunity to make America great again by continuing to embrace the economic and security benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Marshall is a Dallas entrepreneur and chairman of the Texas Young Conservatives for Energy Reform. Combs is founder and chair of Young Conservatives for Energy Reform.