Energy Secretary Rick Perry tried to sell Congress on his plan to give taxpayer-funded handouts to coal and nuclear power producers and it did not go well.
Perry testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy Subcommittee Thursday to make the case for his controversial plan, but he did not seem to have any facts to back up his claims.
The rule would provide subsidies to coal and nuclear power plants that keep at least 90 days of fuel on site, claiming it would provide more reliability in case of an emergency.
Critics of the plan, like Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, worry that the rule would increase costs on consumers while propping up failing plants and at the same time stripping money form emergency alternative energy sources.
Despite the fact that Perry first floated this plan in April, he didn’t have much in terms of facts or data when testifying before the subcommittee.
Illinois Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush asked Perry to provide any studies or facts showing that his proposal would actually improve the reliability of the power grid.
Perry explained that he didn’t have studies or data and had based the proposal on his own personal experiences.
“Your life experiences inform you about future events,” Perry told Rush, “and this is a great example of it.”
New York Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko pressed Perry on whether he had any idea what the cost of his plan would be to consumers.
“I think you take costs into account,” Perry said, clearly at a loss for what the cost would be. “But what’s the cost of freedom? What the cost to keep America free?”
Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle took issue with Perry claiming that he just wanted to start a “conversation” while also insisting that the rule be implemented within 60 days.
“We have actually been having the conversation you are taking credit for starting,” Doyle said. “You say you want a conversation, but you’re ordering FERC to make big changes within 60 days. Which is it?”
“My words are my words,” Perry replied. “It is both. It can be both. We can have a conversation, and I think they must act.”
He went on to complain that funding emerging sources of renewable energy was decreasing the reliability of coal and nuclear power plants, despite the fact his own department’s study in April said there was no impact from funding renewables on power plants.
New Jersey Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone asked Perry to cite actual studies to back up his claims and demanded details from his meetings where he discussed the proposed rule.
“My point with this is I want to start a conversation…so that we don’t face the event in the future where people’s lives are put in jeopardy or where this count’s national security is jeopardized because we refuse to buy into the concept that we need a very diverse energy portfolio,” Perry said.
Pallone, in turn, accused Perry of “distorting the market, damaging the environment, and delivering preferential treatment to favored industries. At the end of the day, killing off competitive electricity markets just to save generation assets that are no longer economical will lead to higher prices for consumers.”