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Trump taps ex-Texas governor Perry as energy secretary

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry leaves after a meeting with US President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower December 12, 2016 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry leaves after a meeting with US President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower December 12, 2016 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR

President-elect Donald Trump tapped former Texas governor Rick Perry, who once famously said he would abolish the Energy Department, to serve as its secretary Wednesday.

The nomination puts Perry, the oil-rich state’s longest-serving governor, in charge of a vast array of energy oversight, including enhancement of nuclear security and science and innovation in the energy field.

“As the governor of Texas, Rick Perry created a business climate that produced millions of new jobs and lower energy prices in his state, and he will bring that same approach to our entire country as secretary of energy,” Trump said in a statement.

Perry, a US Air Force veteran and former farmer, will replace current Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist by training who was a leading force behind the United States’ marathon efforts to seal the Iran nuclear deal.

“I look forward to engaging in a conversation about the development, stewardship and regulation of our energy resources, safeguarding our nuclear arsenal, and promoting an American energy policy that creates jobs and puts America first,” Perry said.

Perry, who participated in the Republican primary but was crushed by Trump early on, once assailed the real estate mogul as a “cancer on conservatism.”

He became the first casualty in a crowded battle for the Republican Party nomination in 2016, throwing his support behind Texas Senator Ted Cruz after dropping out.

The 66-year-old also ran for the Republican party’s 2012 nomination, famously fumbling during a debate when he vowed to abolish three US departments — but could only remember the names of two.

“The third agency of government I would do away with — the education, the commerce. And let’s see. I can’t. The third one I can’t. Sorry. Oops,” he told a tittering crowd in 2011, only to remember later in the debate that he wanted to scrap the Energy Department.

Perry served as lieutenant governor of Texas beginning in 1999 under then-governor George W. Bush. He went on to serve as the 47th governor of the state from 2000 to 2015.

Trump’s statement called Perry “one of the most successful governors in modern history, having led Texas through a sustained period of economic growth and prosperity by developing the state’s energy resources and infrastructure, and making low-cost energy available to companies and families.”

Before assuming public office, Perry flew C-130 tactical airlift aircraft in Europe and the Middle East while serving in the US Air Force from 1972 to 1977.

Perry grew up in the small Texas town of Pain Creek, where his parents were tenant farmers.

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