North Dakota Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer talked about ways to reduce carbon emissions during a meeting yesterday in New York with President-elect Donald Trump that amounted to an audition for Energy secretary.
"I don't think there was much question it was that," Cramer told E&E News, when asked if he thought his 45-minute meeting with Trump and his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, was a job interview.
He said Trump told him the DOE secretary would be one of the later Cabinet jobs filled but did not offer a specific time frame or offer Cramer the post.
"My great contribution to your image is I will greatly decrease the net worth of your Cabinet," Cramer said he joked with Trump who has drawn some criticism for nominating wealthy businessmen for administration jobs.
Cramer, who recently coasted to a third term in the House, was an early Capitol Hill backer of Trump. He advised the campaign on energy policy and campaigned across the country for him.
During yesterday's meeting, Cramer said, he outlined his ideas for restructuring the Energy Department, particularly by doing less "micromanaging" of agency labs. But, he said much of their policy conversation focused on ways to reduce carbon emissions.
Trump throughout his campaign consistently denied man-made climate change, even suggesting at various points it was a "hoax" created by China to gain an advantage over the United States.
The president-elect surprised many by meeting earlier yesterday with former Vice President Al Gore, perhaps the world's most well-known advocate for fighting climate change.
Cramer, who is a climate change skeptic, said the Gore meeting did not come up when he talked with Trump.
However, Cramer said Trump realizes that regardless of one's stance on the causes of global warming he knows that the public favors curtailing carbon emissions.
"I think he pretty well confirmed that it's the solution that's more critical than where you land on the issue itself," said Cramer.
Cramer said he emphasized using clean coal and carbon-capture technologies to help curb emissions. He said he could envision DOE labs running four or five demonstration programs to test out the feasibility of those types of technologies.
"DOE has become so risk adverse in my view and so I said we need to unshackle that a bit and see what we come out with," said Cramer, who said Trump has a clear interest in finding solutions regardless of his stated views on global warming.
Cramer said Trump also asked his thoughts about North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who met with Trump last week and is said to be in the running for Energy or Interior secretary.
"I gave him a honest assessment — she is one of the more likeable Democrats you are ever going to meet," said Cramer.
If Heitkamp were selected, Cramer would almost certainly be a favorite to take her Senate seat. Under North Dakota law, an election would have to be held in 90 days of Heitkamp resigning, and Democrats do not have a clear candidate.
Cramer said he's not bothered by all the speculation about a future in the Cabinet or Senate because there is no bad option for him.
"If the worst outcome is I get to be a third term House of Representatives member from North Dakota with a vote on the Energy and Commerce Committee, it's working pretty well for me," he added.