January 18, 2017

CNAS Briefing: Key Questions for the Perry Confirmation Hearing

By Elizabeth Rosenberg

As Governor Rick Perry is set to face a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to be the next Secretary of Energy, Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Energy, Economics, and Security Program Director Elizabeth Rosenberg has prepared a series of questions she would like the members of the committee to ask during the hearing. The full list of questions is available below:

Nuclear Weapons

  • Nuclear weapons and capabilities account for more than half of the $32 billion allocated for the Department of Energy budget in 2017. During the political transition to President-elect Trump, renewed public focus has been trained on a significant part of this expenditure: the maintenance, monitoring, and stockpiling of atomic weapons—crucially—without the need for actual testing. No countries, excluding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, have conducted nuclear tests since India and Pakistan’s tests in 1998, and there is a concern that a return to testing, could foster a new arms race and general encouragement of proliferation. In a recent editorial, current Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz made such a concern clear calling for the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty to strengthen the foundation for a global testing ban and amplify pressure on any country that does go forward with a test. Do you encourage the maintenance of the status quo or would you push for testing as part of a broader framework of more openness to nuclear weapons as expressed by statements by the president elect?


  • Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz has taken an active stance in fighting nuclear proliferation, most prominently by working to bring about the Iran nuclear deal. The incoming president has taken a different stance toward nuclear proliferation. During the campaign, he stated that proliferation would “happen anyway” and that Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia should have their own nuclear capability. He subsequently indicated an intent to “[l]et it be an arms race.” President-elect Trump has also called for ripping up the Iran deal, arguing that it failed to achieve its stated non-proliferation objectives.  What stance will you take on nuclear proliferation and what tools do you plan on using to achieve your objectives?



Climate Change

  • President-elect Trump has called climate change a hoax and you said in 2011 that “the science is not settled” on climate change. The Paris agreement committed more than 190 countries to develop plans to combat climate change. As the world’s largest economy and second largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, the United States’ commitment to the agreement demonstrates leadership on the global stage. Moreover, prominent leaders of the U.S. military and national security communities recently concluded that the effects of climate change pose risks to the U.S. homeland, including military infrastructure, which has direct bearing on the U.S. ability to project military power and demonstrate leadership. Given your stated views on climate change, please state what steps you will take on this issue without compromising U.S. leadership and national security interests.


  • Pipelines and energy infrastructure attracted significant public attention in the United States, with the disputes over the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipelines (DAPL) serving as flashpoints. You have served on the board of two companies that combined own almost 40 percent of DAPL and have expressed support for Keystone XL, noting during your 2016 campaign that you would approve the project on “day one.” President-elect Trump, while showing his support for fossil fuels generally and Keystone XL and DAPL specifically, stated “I want it built, but I want a piece of the profits.” If confirmed, how will you and your colleagues in the new administration work to approve these pipelines and what are the factors that will inform the process?

Energy, the Economy, and National Security

  • Over the last several years, the United States has witnessed considerable growth both in its natural gas production (50 percent increase between 2005 and 2015) and in its crude oil production (54 percent increase between 2005 and 2015). This marks a reversal from long-held assumptions about energy scarcity in the United States. Largely based on a recognition of the newfound status of the United States as an energy producer, the decades-long ban on the export of crude oil was lifted more than a year ago. President-elect Trump’s America First energy plan indicated that, “American energy dominance will be declared a strategic economic and foreign policy goal of the United States.” At the same time, his plan promised that the United States “will become, and stay, totally independent of any need to import energy from the OPEC cartel or any nations hostile to our interests.” Please elaborate on how you intend to translate U.S. energy dominance into specific economic and foreign policy gains? How do you intend to halt U.S. imports of energy from unstable, hostile nations given that the United States is a part of a global energy market and relies on imports for 24 percent of its petroleum consumption?



The Strategic Petroleum Reserve

  • In a recent testimony, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz noted the ever-present risk of a crude supply disruption and noted the continuing importance of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). He also supported the proposed $2 billion modernization plan paid by drawing down about 8 million barrels between 2017–2020. There is no policy consensus on how to best use the SPR in the event of a crisis and the repeated attempts to draw down the reserve to pay for unrelated policy initiatives demonstrates the scant appreciation many have for the sustained source of security the SPR provides. Some even argue for the complete drawdown of the reserve in favor of private inventories. How do you plan to approach the SPR? Will you focus on the continued modernization of the reserve? What is the appropriate amount of product to be stored? And will you undertake a review to define how to better use the tool, especially as it relates to coordinating with both fellow IEA members and China, which itself is building a similar reserve?

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and China

  • The export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States is an area where tensions may arise between the United States and China in the new administration. Chinese companies were long absent while their East Asian peers signed a myriad of contracts with U.S. LNG exporters over the last decade and still have remarkably limited involvement, particularly given the tremendous and expanding need they have for imported gas. Chinese absence from the U.S. market may be in part attributed to the ability China has to procure gas by pipeline and from domestic production. However, some analysts and market participants believe that the leading explanation for why China is mostly absent from the U.S. market is because the United States prevents or discourages LNG sales to China. Additionally, many believe that the United States would halt LNG exports to China in a market crisis or for political reasons. Of course, the United States does not bar China from its LNG market, and it would be a dangerous and foolhardy political step to cut off Chinese customers arbitrarily. As energy secretary, would you work to counteract these anti-China assumptions and encourage U.S. LNG shipping to China to expand economic and strategic benefits to the United States? Or will you play the role of a China-skeptic and allow perpetuation of the view that the United States will manipulate LNG trade with China for political purposes?

Rosenberg is available for interviews on the confirmation hearing. To arrange one, please contact Neal Urwitz at nurwitz@cnas.org, or call 202-457-9409.


  • Elizabeth Rosenberg

    Former Senior Fellow and Director, Energy, Economics and Security Program

    Elizabeth Rosenberg is a former Senior Fellow and Director of the Energy, Economics, and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. In this capacity, she publ...