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Former U.S. Secretary of Energy and Texas Governor Rick Perry pushed back against the feasibility of 2050 net-zero goals in a speech to thousands of attendees at POWERGEN International and DISTRIBUTECH International.

Perry defended the use of fossil fuels and nuclear at a time when renewable energy capacity is growing rapidly. “The idea that there is this absolute just war against fossil fuels is really disheartening,” he said. He also touted carbon capture and sequestration and advanced nuclear technologies like small modular reactors (SMRs).

“Does anybody think that we’re going to be able to address all of the needs of the United States by 2035, with just renewables? We’re going to need it all,” he said. “Instead of pitting one against the other, let’s figure out the ways that we can work together, have this balance and recognize that we’re going to need fossil fuels far into the future.”

Perry, a Republican, was the 14th Secretary of Energy, serving for two years under the Trump administration. He served as the 47th governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015. As governor, he oversaw the nation’s largest expansion of utility-scale wind power.

He was one of several high-level speakers in this year’s keynote address, which also included current U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm; Jim Greer, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Oncor; Tom Deitrich, president and chief executive officer of Itron; and Braden Cammauf, vice president of FPT Industrial.

Perry cited millions of people in countries like China and India who don’t have access to electricity as one reason for the need to keep non-intermittent sources like fossil fuels in the generation mix. “If the world went to net zero by 2050, it would be one of the most apocalyptic loss of life in the world’s history,” he said.

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