Trump appoints fossil-fuel apostle to head renewable energy office

Daniel Simmons’ last job was at a conservative think-tank that unabashedly cheered renewable energy failures and championed fossil-fuel causes. As part of his job, he lied about who funded certain solar projects and pretended solar was too expensive, ignoring the fact that solar is already the cheapest source of generation in many places.

Which, of course, is why President Donald Trump decided Simmons would be the perfect candidate to head the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the Department of Energy.

For those of you who don’t know EERE,  its primary mission is to provide technology assistance to renewable energy and has funded some of the latest breakthroughs in the solar industry.

Keeping up his streak of handing the reins of government to people Hell-bent on destroying the agencies they head (see Pruitt, Scott, Environmental Protection Agency; see also Devos, Betsy, Department of Education), Trump’s appointment of Simmons to the post should alarm renewable energy advocates.

Despite a $17 million increase in the budget for the department in last week’s continuing-resolution deal (which will keep the government running until another crisis looms in September), the appointment of Simmons sends the clear message that the Trump Administration is a pawn of the fossil-fuel industry and is populated by people, like Trump, who have a completed disregard for facts.

On the campaign trail, Trump frequently repeated the lie that solar was too expensive to deploy widely in the United States and, in a statement that will go down as one of the most jaw-dropping in a campaign filled with gob-smackers, “Windpower kills all the birds.”

The Washington Post published some of Simmons’ most (in)famous lies:

  • “It is unseemly that the American taxpayer has contributed billions of dollars to these facilities.”

Simmons uttered this line during testimony before Congress. He is speaking about the Ivanpah concentrated-solar plant in California’s Mojave Desert, which is being funded by Google and other private companies, while repaying a loan backed by the U.S. Department of Energy under a program that has turned a profit for the U.S. government.

  • “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.”

Simmons said this during a podcast by Libertarian think tank The Heartland Institute in 2013. Simmons would have been making a fair point – if time had stopped in 2007. But plunging panel prices, advances in technology and (slowly) dropping soft costs have made solar competitive with fossil fuels in many states.

  • “I think that everything should be treated equally across the board. 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.

Simmons made this claim at a Politico-sponsored energy forum last year, arguing that subsidies for renewable energy should be done away with because the United States is already using what he believes is the cheapest fuel source in the country. As most fossil-fuel cheerleaders do, Simmons ignores the incentives which have aided the oil and gas industry since 1916, including restricting Master Limited Partnerships to oil companies.