Fossil fuel champion chosen by Donald Trump to run renewable energy office

David Simmons will preside over Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, which is set for a budget cut of more than 50 per cent

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a sign supporting coal during a rally at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a sign supporting coal during a rally at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Donald Trump has chosen a champion of fossil fuels to run the federal government’s renewable energy office.

Daniel Simmons will be the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s acting assistant secretary, according to a memo obtained by E&E News.

The appointment is the latest in a string of appointments of climate science deniers and people with links to fossil fuel companies to key positions in the administration.

Despite evidence that wind and solar power are now either cheaper than fossil fuels or on track to be so within a few years, Mr Simmons has repeatedly criticised renewable energy for being more expensive than oil or gas.

And, as The Washington Post pointed out, he praised fossil fuels only last year.

“We have to look at the track record of the oil and gas industry [which is] producing low-cost, reliable energy, particularly when the alternative is much, much higher prices,” he told an energy forum.

In a podcast for the libertarian think tank the Heartland Institute in 2013, he 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.

“And in an economy that is struggling, it is critical that we do everything we can to keep prices low.”

And, giving evidence to Congress in July last year about federal support for the Ivanpah solar power plant, which is sponsored by Google and other firms, Mr Simmons said: “It is unseemly that the American taxpayer has contributed billions of dollars to these facilities.”

He will be the renewable energy office’s principal deputy assistant secretary, but will act as assistant secretary until one is appointed by Mr Trump and approved by Congress.

The office has a $2 billion budget to help research into renewable energy research, but the President has proposed that this should be cut by 53 per cent next year.

Worldwide, the fossil fuel sector receives far more subsidies than renewables, although this can be difficult to calculate because of the array of tax breaks and other incentives.

A recent study by the International Energy Agency and the Financial Times found that the sector received four times more subsidies than renewable energy in 2014 – $490bn compared to $112bn.

However other researchers put the fossil fuel subsidy much higher at $5.3 trillion worldwide in 2015 – about 6.5 per cent of the total gross domestic product.

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