Speaking Friday at the National Energy Technology Laboratory near Pittsburgh, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry emphasized the link between energy innovation and national security and talked about what he sees as coal’s strong future.
Calling his position as energy secretary “the coolest job” he’s ever had, Perry thanked the standing room-only crowd of scientists and researchers for their work in advancing energy technology, specifically when it comes to coal.
“All of this gives hope to families,” he said. “The people in this Appalachian region who maybe five years ago thought, ‘My way of life is finished because government decided coal was a bad thing.’ Well, coal’s not a bad thing.”
Supplying fossil fuels to U.S. allies presents a significant economic opportunity, Perry said, as well as prevents them from “being held hostage by one country, Russia.”
“Today, America is on the verge of not just being energy independent but energy dominant," he said.
He envisioned nascent power plants in India and China being powered with U.S. coal.
Perry was joined by Republican U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18). He asked if there were any constituents in the crowd. When a few raised their hands, he joked, “OK, this counts as a town hall meeting, then.”
Murphy said the region could help the world with its energy resources of coal, natural gas and nuclear power.
“However, it doesn’t do any good if you can’t get it from here to there,” he said, talking about what he characterized as Pennsylvania’s intentionally slow permitting process for things like natural gas pipelines. Government should not be a place that stops you from working... It should be a place that says, ‘Unleash the genius of America.’”
Both Perry and Murphy praised the work of the national laboratories, as well as NETL Director Dr. Grace M. Bochenek, who was Acting Secretary of Energy before Perry was confirmed.
In answering pre-selected questions from NETL staff, Perry talked about the importance of drawing young people into the sciences, making nuclear engineering “cool again,” and “resurrecting the space program.”
In short, he said, "make America great again."
Perry ordered a study of the U.S. electricity grid in April. Expected soon, it could mean changes to how the federal government regulates and supports renewable energy sources.