Analysis & Opinions - The Conversation

Lesson one for Rick Perry: The Energy Department doesn’t produce much energy

| December 14, 2016

A former governor of Texas – the state that produces more crude oil, natural gas, lignite coal, wind power and refined petroleum products than any other – would seem to be a natural choice for secretary of energy. Yet, assuming he is confirmed by the Senate, Rick Perry will face a paradox.

While the Department of Defense defends us, and the Department of Treasury manages federal finances and supervises banks, the Department of Energy does not provide America’s energy. Yes, it markets hydroelectric power from dams run by the Army Corps of Engineers, but U.S. energy production is overwhelmingly a job for the private sector.

The Energy Department is a hodgepodge of organizations, some of which existed decades before DOE was created in 1977. But it has two core missions: nuclear energy, weapons and cleanup, which account for 68 percent of the department’s fiscal year 2016 budget; and research and development (including basic science) to advance cleaner or more efficient ways to produce and use energy, which constitutes 28 percent of its budget. The incoming secretary will need to marshal these nuclear and scientific capabilities to meet key national security challenges, including a resurgent Russia and the threat of nuclear proliferation and terrorism.


For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Tobey, William H..“Lesson one for Rick Perry: The Energy Department doesn’t produce much energy.” The Conversation, December 14, 2016.

The Author