U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's choice to head the Energy Department expressed misgivings Thursday for proposing to do away with the agency that manages the nation's nuclear arsenal.
"I regret recommending it's elimination," Former Texas Governor Rick Perry said during confirmation hearings before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
As a Republican presidential candidate in 2011, Perry promised to eliminate the Energy Department. But he said Thursday he reversed course "after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy."
Perry, who had a record 14-year tenure as the governor of the oil-rich state of Texas, has long promoted increased production of oil and other fossil fuels. But he also endorsed an "all the above" energy production approach, encompassing all types of fossil fuel and renewable energy production, before Democratic President Barack Obama endorsed the strategy.
As governor, he maintained Texas' position as a leading producer of oil and gas and oversaw its emergence as the nation's top wind energy state and a top 10 provider of solar power. Perry pledged Thursday to advocate energy in all forms if he is confirmed.
Despite his experience in the energy sector, his selection for energy secretary has drawn criticism. Critics contend he may not be suited to overseeing an agency that is largely dedicated to designing, managing and ensuring the safety of the nation's nuclear arsenal. Some Democrats and environmental groups have ridiculed Perry's nomination, suggesting he is not as qualified as two renowned physicists who preceded him as energy secretary. Perry earned a bachelor's degree in animal science from Texas A&M University.
Perry, a self-professed climate skeptic, vowed to resort to science when crafting any climate-change policy as energy secretary. "My record clearly shows that is the case," he said.
In a book Perry authored in 2010 entitled Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington, he described the science of human-induced climate change as a "phony mess." But Perry appeared to alter his position on climate change Thursday, saying "I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by manmade activity."
President-elect Trump has also cast doubt on climate change with assertions it is the result of a campaign of deception promoted by China.
Confirmation as energy secretary would amount to a political resurrection for Perry. After a failed presidential campaign in 2012, he tried to keep his political aspirations alive with a second presidential run in 2016 against a group of Republican presidential hopefuls, including President-elect Trump.