Energy

Obama-Era Official Behind Pruitt’s Climate Debate Idea Now Backs Coal Bailouts

REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

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Chris White Tech Reporter

A former Obama-era Energy Department official who first floated the idea of climate debate is now signing off on President Donald Trump’s bid to save beleaguered nuclear and coal power plants.

Steve Koonin signed a letter with 70 other former politicians and government officials that supports Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s move to offer a helping hand to coal for national security concerns. Koonin was former President Barack Obama’s science chief at the DOE.

“We write to commend you for recognizing the important role our civil nuclear energy sector plays in bolstering America’s national security,” the letter noted. “We urge you to continue to take concrete steps to ensure the national security attributes of U.S. nuclear power plants are properly recognized by policymakers and are valued in U.S. electricity markets.”

Koonin joined the likes of Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and former Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, along with Dale Klein, a former Republican chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in their support for Perry’s coal gambit.

The letter, which was sent Tuesday to Perry, ordered the former Texas governor to act immediately to save struggling coal and nuclear plants. It also comes after Koonin championed the idea of creating a “red team vs. blue team” style climate debate. (RELATED: Trump Ordered Rick Perry To ‘Stop The Loss’ Of Coal And Nuclear Plants)

“I think it would be a good idea if that kind of exercise took place,” Koonin told reporters in 2017, referring to the climate debate. He also made generally supportive remarks of the idea in a Wall Street Journal editorial that year, claiming a public debate about global warming could deflate the politics surrounding climate research.

The idea essentially pits climate skeptics against academics who argue that human beings are the primary drivers of climate change. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt first announced the idea in 2017, and has since suggested the debates should be televised. (RELATED: Report: Scott Pruitt May Ask Former Obama Official To Lead A Climate ‘Red Team’)

Scientists who question climate science frequently lose federal funding. Koonin suggested that prominent climate skeptics such as MIT academic Richard Lindzen and climatologist Judith Curry are among those who have been on the blunt end of the activists’ ire.

The climate debate has been placed on hold due to complications connected to the roll out, but Pruitt and others at the EPA contend the idea could be resurrected.

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