During a discussion hosted by Axios and NBC News on energy policy Thursday morning, former Texas governor and current Secretary of Energy Rick Perry suggested fossil fuels can stop sexual assault. Perry was telling a story about a young girl in an African village who told him that electricity is important to her because she won't have to "read by the light of a fire and have those fumes literally killing people. But also from the standpoint of sexual assault," he continued. "When the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will on those types of acts."
This statement was made as part of a greater defense of fossil fuels at the Axios-NBC News event. "So from the standpoint of how you really affect people's lives, fossil fuels is going to play a role in that. I happen to think it's going to play a positive role," Perry said, offering a stark choice between having electricity and not, rather than, say, renewable energy and coal.
Perry also told the hosts, Axios founder Jim VandeHei and MSNBC's Chuck Todd, that climate change is real and that human activity does "have an impact on it." He did add, however, that he "still think[s] the science is out on" what degree of difference human activity makes.
This is not the first time he has addressed the issues of fossil fuels, climate change, or even sexual assault. While he was still governor, he decided that he would ignore a federal regulation to help prevent rape in prison. In a letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder explaining his decision to forego the federal rules, he wrote, "One of Texas' 254 counties has said that compliance with this standard would require them to hire 30 more detention officers."
As for climate change, as recently as June, Perry denied that human activity is the primary cause, in extended comments that are much in line with what he said Thursday. Asked if humans were the main cause of climate change on CNBC's Squawk Box, Perry answered, "No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in."
He continued that "the fact is this shouldn't be a debate about, 'Is the climate changing, is man having an effect on it?' Yeah, we are. The question should be just how much, and what are the policy changes that we need to make to affect that?"
But cutting out or reducing fossil fuels does not seem to be a policy that Perry would consider. He pushed their adoption on the African continent just last week while in South Africa, telling a regional oil summit held in Cape Town:
If you admit you support fossil fuels, it's like saying you've made some huge social error. But it's in fossil fuels that you will see real growth.
Back in September he again painted fossil fuels and the energy industry as a savior.
"This industry is leading the world in affecting the climate and affecting the climate in a positive way," Perry told the audience at a meeting at the National Petroleum Council in Washington. "I'm proud to be a part of this industry. You want to talk about saving lives that’s what we are doing."
Perry notably sat on the board of the company building the fossil fuels-carrying Dakota Access Pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners appointed Perry to the board after he finished his term as Texas governor "because of his vast experience as an executive in the highest office of state government" and his past working with "finance and budget planning processes."
Perry's steadfast support of fossil fuels and continued climate skepticism is nothing new, but it's safe to say his latest comment connecting fossil fuels to sexual assault prevention has baffled many people.