Solar tracker panels follow the sun's path May 17, 2014 on a Champlain Valley dairy farm near West Haven, Vermont.
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty

Trump taps opponent of renewable energy for renewable energy office

As Donald Trump’s cabinet took shape, a pattern started to emerge: many of the people the Republican president chose to lead agencies fundamentally opposed the purpose of those agencies.

Betsy DeVos is a Secretary of Education who opposes public schools; Rick Perry is the Secretary of Energy who’s called for the elimination of the Department of Energy; Scott Pruitt leads an Environmental Protection Agency he’s fought to undermine for years; and so on.

But what’s less appreciated is the degree to which this problem extends beyond the high-profile cabinet posts, and reaches some important offices with lower profiles. The Washington Post reported yesterday, for example:
President Trump has appointed Daniel Simmons, a conservative scholar who sharply questioned the value of promoting renewable energy sources and curbs on greenhouse gas emissions, to oversee the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), according to an email distributed to department employees. […]

Though no official announcement has been made, the acting head of the office, Steve Chalk, sent an email to DOE employees Monday saying that Simmons, a member of the Trump transition team, will become the principal deputy assistant secretary for EERE.
Just so we’re clear, the purpose of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) is to “create and sustain American leadership in the transition to a global clean-energy economy.” Donald Trump has chosen someone to lead this office who’s argued that no such transition should take place.

The New Republic added that the EERE office “has historically included investments in renewable energy technologies like solar, wind, and geothermal, as well as electric vehicles and building efficiency.” Trump’s choice has argued against these investments.

The Post’s report noted that Simmons has been “direct about his disdain for federal subsidies for renewable energy.” And so the White House wants him to lead the federal office on renewable energy.

While federal officials should be prioritizing renewable-energy investments, the Trump administration is embracing a regressive approach. This is apparently how things work in the Trump era.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/1/17, 9:18 PM ET

Trump administration weak on basic competence

Rachel Maddow points out how Donald Trump has hired people who are ill-suited for the roles in which they’re meant to serve, like contraception skeptic Teresa Manning in charge of contraception programs, or anti-abortion activist Charmaine Yoest…
But a story like this is also a reminder to keep an eye on what the administration is doing just below the surface. Cabinet officials are important, of course, but much of the day-to-day work of the executive branch is done by the heads of smaller and more obscure offices that don’t often get the spotlight. And it’s many of these offices that are now led by a variety of far-right officials chosen by the new Republican administration.

An opponent of renewable energy leading the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is a classic example, but there are others. Rachel noted on the show the other day, for example, that Trump is also putting a contraception critic, Teresa Manning, in charge of implementing the Title X program, which means she’ll oversee contraception access for millions of low-income Americans.

That announcement came on the heels of Trump appointing another anti-abortion activist, Charmaine Yoest, to serve as the Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary for public affairs, despite her history of radicalism.

The public generally won’t see these officials or their offices, but their work will have a meaningful impact.

Donald Trump

Trump taps opponent of renewable energy for renewable energy office