Energy Secretary Rick Perry has made a lot of gaffes in his time. His most memorable one came while running for president, when he claimed he would get rid of three federal agencies. When pressed to name all three during a debate, however, he couldn't recall which the third would be.
His campaign later elaborated that it was the Department of Energy — the very department that he now runs under the administration of President Donald Trump.
This week, however, Perry made a new comment that reflects just how backward his thinking really is. Perry, in defending the continued use of fossil fuels at an energy policy conference in Washington, D.C., suggested that the use of such polluting fuel sources were worth compromising the health of our planet because they prevent, of all things, sexual assault.
Perry cited his recent trip to Africa, and recalled how a young girl there told him she reads by light using a fossil fuel-powered energy source. Perry made a conclusion that, besides providing her with a way to read, the light protected her and others from nefarious individuals seeking to commit sexual crimes against them.
"... from the standpoint of sexual assault," Perry explained, "when the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts.”
One could argue that Perry's point is that renewable energy sources may not provide the same services that fossil fuels can reliably deliver. The conclusion he may be drawing is that solar powered-lights cannot function at nighttime, when the sun is obviously not available to power them.
Except that's not how solar energy works. Solar powered lights do work at night because they store their energy in a solar cell. There's nothing preventing that girl in Africa from Perry’s anecdotal story from collecting light during the day (or over several days in a row) and using the stored energy to read at night or throughout a dark storm.
Perry also said at the same event that the “science is out” on whether human actions have anything to do with climate change that is becoming more noticeable and more severe with each passing year. With very few exceptions, the scientific consensus is that human activity, without any doubt, is contributing to the problem of climate change, no matter what Perry may believe.
But perhaps we can forgive Perry — his lacking in understanding how renewable energy sources work is perhaps indicative of how misinformed he is on the topic of energy and climate change overall. It’s just disappointing that such an ignorant person on these issues runs a department that requires a greater grasp of knowledge than Perry can provide.