On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he has nominated a new head of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The pick was no surprise; since the news that acting Energy Secretary Rick Perry would step down broke on Thursday, many news outlets have speculated that Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette would replace him.
Brouillette has kept a lower profile domestically than Perry, leading many outlets to publish rather bland descriptions of him as the nominee to head U.S. energy R&D and keep an eye on the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
So who is Dan Brouillette? We’ve compiled a few quick details:
He says he is an “all of the above” guy
In multiple media appearances, Dan Brouillette has presented himself as an advocate for President Trump’s “All of the above” energy policy. This slogan itself was first used by President Obama, but the Trump Administration has attempted to put its own stamp on the phrase. As explained by Brouillette before the International Energy Agency:
For perhaps the fist time, the United States is finally embracing a true, all of the above energy policy. One that does not pick winners and losers, but instead opens the door to innovation.
And in his role at DOE, Brouillette has been an enthusiastic participant the Solar Decathlon. This and DOE’s continuation of solar programs such as SunShot and SolSmart suggests that unlike some of the pro-coal ideologues that President Trump has appointed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Brouillette may not be hostile to renewable energy.
Brouillette has also been identified by Politico as being a key player in getting the Energy Policy Act of 2005 passed, which created the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar and the DOE loan guarantee program. And even with solar outgrowing the need for loan guarantees, these two programs have probably been the most significant supports for solar at the federal level.
…but he was part of the effort to get a coal and nuclear bailout
The Deputy Secretary may have a different idea about what not picking winners and losers means, than we do (or than eight former commissioners at FERC), as he was part of Secretary Perry’s attempt to ram a bailout for coal and nuclear power plants through FERC.
Brouillette has defended the coal and nuclear bailout on the claim that coal and nuclear power plants are not being adequately recognized for the value they provide. “One of the main reasons that coal and nuclear are, quote, uneconomic is because they don’t get paid for their services,” Brouillette told the Washington Examiner in a February 2018 interview.
Along with this, Brouillette has shown that he is wedded to the concept of baseload generation, stating that “we want to always ensure that we have a certain amount of baseload available”.
But the alleged “need” for baseload reveals political concerns more than technical ones. Many grids all over the world (California, Costa Rica, Denmark, Uruguay) that have few or no coal or nuclear power plants but high penetrations of renewable energy are operating just fine, relying on either hydropower, gas plants and/or imports) to fill in when wind and solar are not delivering.
He can work across the aisle
Unlike other Trump Administration appointees (Bernard McNamee comes to mind), Dan Brouillette does not hail from right-wing think tanks, and has not spent time as a paid advocate for fossil fuels – unless you count his time as a lobbyist for the auto industry.
Instead, Brouillette has had a background that mixed extensive private sector and government energy experience, including working with members of both parties.
In this, Brouillette’s Louisiana roots may be relevant. Like many in Southern Louisiana his father worked in the oil and gas industry. Brouillette also worked under former Representative Billy Tauzin (R-Louisiana), who served as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It is notable that Tauzin began his career as a Democrat.
In getting the Energy and Policy Act of 2005, Tauzin and Brouillette had to work across the aisle, and his comments to the press reflect a nuance that is rare in the Trump Administration.
Dan Brouillette is definitely a supporter of the oil and gas industry and President Trump’s Energy Dominance approach. But he’s also more complex and subtle than many of his fellow appointees.