President Donald Trump has reportedly made his pick for the next head of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE): Daniel Simmons, former vice president of policy at the Institute for Energy Research (IER), a nonprofit group advocating for “freely functioning energy markets.”
The EERE is in control of a wide variety of government-led clean energy efforts, including the SunShot Initiative, which has played a major role in cutting the costs of solar technology. However, according to the Washington Post, which cites an email sent to DOE employees, Simmons is a “conservative scholar” who has spoken out against federal subsidies for renewables, as well as advocated for oil and gas.
During a 2013 podcast, Simmons reportedly said, “The most simple of all points is that no matter what the renewable guys say, what they will admit is that their type of power – the wind and solar – is more expensive and will increase the price of electricity.”
Part of Trump’s transition team, Simmons will be named principal deputy assistant secretary for the EERE, the email said.
According to the IER’s latest articles, the organization has called the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline an “economic no-brainer”; said it is “time for the federal government to stop wasting taxpayer dollars” on wind subsidies; and claimed the U.S.’ involvement in the Paris Agreement would “put the future of American families and businesses at a great disadvantage.”
In a press release from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the group calls the appointment “offensive and ironic.”
“This office fuels innovation in developing and deploying renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies,” states John Rogers, senior energy analyst at UCS. “They’re working on wind, solar and geothermal technologies; investing in electric vehicles; and finding ways to reduce energy use in buildings.”
He adds, “To put someone who thinks the federal government shouldn’t be promoting clean energy in charge of this office is like being assigned a doctor who thinks we shouldn’t use modern medicine. This would be comical if there weren’t so much at stake.”
The appointment of Simmons follows other recent picks by Trump for federal energy officials, including Scott Pruitt, who has been called a “fossil-fuel ally” and “climate science denier,” as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Likewise, the appointment of Rick Perry, who was named secretary of the DOE, also faced backlash from environmental advocacy and clean energy groups.
Brett Hartl, who serves as government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Washington Post that Trump has now put together “the most anti-environmental administration in history.”