Former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin raised eyebrows over the weekend when she said she’d like to serve as Donald Trump’s Energy secretary — with an early course of action being killing the Department of Energy.
The former Alaska governor elaborated on her comments yesterday in an impromptu interview with E&E Daily, after huddling privately with Trump and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) behind closed doors in the Capitol basement.
The Hill meeting, which followed a joint rally against the Iran nuclear deal that included Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), came days after Palin told CNN she’d like to "get rid" of DOE after taking the department’s reins.
Asked about her comments, Palin noted that it was CNN that asked of her interest in serving in a Trump White House — a possibility the candidate himself has also floated.
"If I were asked to serve, where would you serve in a Cabinet, and I said, ‘Hey, energy’s my baby. Put me in charge of that,’" she said.
"And I’d shut down the federal level because the Department of Energy has done nothing but stall responsible development. But states ought to be in charge of developing their own natural resources."
Trump, who repeatedly called Palin "terrific" after leaving the meeting, used that term again when asked by E&E Daily if he would make her DOE secretary if he won the presidency.
"Of course, she’s a terrific person," he said. "She’s just been a friend of mine for a long time, and she was here, and she wanted to say hello, and we said hello."
Republicans have long criticized aspects of DOE’s portfolio, which includes nuclear weapons programs and cleanups. But the department’s basic research programs enjoy strong bipartisan support — a point Palin conceded.
"I like that aspect of it, but other departments perhaps could pick up some of the valuable things that the Department of Energy is doing," she said.
Many Republicans also share Palin’s view that states should be the lead regulators on energy production. However, while DOE sets efficiency standards and is the federal agency in charge of considering exports of natural gas, the department actually plays a relatively minor role in the federal regulatory apparatus.
But Palin criticized the department’s "anti-development mindset," citing her experiences on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and later as governor.
"And that mindset is so ingrained in there, and I know that as having been commissioner in Alaska, oil and gas regulations, and then governor, trying to work with them, that mindset being so ingrained that there’s not a lot of hope to change that," she said.
Palin notably did stress the importance of regulating energy producers.
"Most important thing, though, is holding industry’s feet to the fire so that the regulations that are in place, on state lands especially, and federal lands, that would all of course have to be worked out to make sure that the industry is regulated," she said. "Otherwise, they will take advantage."
But when it was pointed out that the Interior Department plays a much larger regulatory role in overseeing oil and gas resources than DOE, Palin decried the size of the federal bureaucracy, which she said provides duplicative services across the government.
"Well, then, all the more reason for DOE to, perhaps, just kind of blend some of the responsibilities with another department," she said.
"The nature of the beast of government is to grow, grow, grow, regardless of effectiveness or productivity or success," she said, "and that’s got to change in order to allow our nation to be solvent, otherwise we’re going to continue down this road to bankruptcy."