Note: This story was last updated at 8:30 a.m. May 24.
HARDIN VALLEY—He once called for eliminating the U.S. Department of Energy, but after touring federal sites in Oak Ridge and Hardin Valley on Monday, new Energy Secretary Rick Perry pledged to be an advocate for at least some programs.
Perry, a former Texas governor who was confirmed as energy secretary on March 2, was asked about his comments calling for the elimination of three federal departments, including DOE, during the 2012 presidential campaign. His call to eliminate the three departments probably received more attention than it might have otherwise because, in a moment that received a lot of attention, Perry couldn’t recall the name of the Department of Energy during a November 2011 debate. Some believe that moment helped sink his presidential campaign.
Earlier this year, Perry told U.S. senators during his confirmation hearing that he regretted his earlier call to eliminate DOE. After being briefed on many vital functions of DOE, he no longer believed that it should be eliminated, Perry told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, according to The New York Times.
During a stop in Hardin Valley on Monday afternoon, Perry acknowledged he’s learned a lot since the 2012 campaign, including in his visit to Oak Ridge and at DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C., and in trips to Idaho National Laboratory and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeast New Mexico.
He suggested he might not be the only one unaware of some of the innovations that have roots in or are developed in places like Oak Ridge, innovations like gene therapy, supercomputing, and 3D printing. The American public may also not be aware of how that “cutting-edge” technology can be used to create jobs and wealth, Perry said.
“Those are things I readily admit I didn’t know five years ago,” Perry said after operating a 3D-printed excavator and test-driving a printed utility vehicle—and learning about other innovations such as supercomputers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and composite work at its Manufacturing Demonstration Facility in Hardin Valley on Monday afternoon. “There are a lot of things that have surprised me.” [Read more…]