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Lights Out at DOE?

Guest Column
Today in Fortnightly

Luckily for former Texas Governor Rick Perry, he's not the first nominee to be Secretary of the Department of Energy to call for the abolishment of that department. That honor goes to former Michigan Senator Spencer Abraham who, while a member of the Senate, actually co-sponsored a bill to abolish the Department of Energy!

Abraham writes about this curious episode is his very readable and useful book Lights Out: The Ten Myths About (and Real Solutions to) America's Energy Crisis, St. Martin's Press, 2010.

As Abraham relates the story, as the former Senator from America's car capital Michigan, he had fully expected to be nominated for Secretary of Transportation. When the call came on New Year's Eve of 2000, from President Bush's chief of staff Andy Card, Abraham was surprised when the cabinet position to Energy and not Transportation was offered.

In what could be described as a classic understatement, Abraham said to Card, 

"There's one thing that might become an issue..."

You can read for yourselves how Abraham handled the first question offered by a "friend and fellow Republican" at his Senate confirmation hearings a few weeks later: 

"Do you still favor abolishing the Department of Energy?"

Closings this topic in Lights Out, former Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham sums up nicely what many in Washington know and understand:

"Amid grins and winks from friends on both sides of the aisle - all of whom had changed their positions on issues at various times - we moved on to other topics."

And that's a pretty good place for the new nominee to start.


Read Branko Terzic's column on utility regulation legend Joseph Swidler in the upcoming January issue of Public Utilities Fortnightly .