Is Donald Trump considering Donald Hoffman as Secretary of Energy?
After every Presidential election, the game of “guess the cabinet” becomes one of the hottest activities in Washington, DC. One of the more entertaining aspects of the game is that almost anyone can play. Some participants read press articles voraciously and seek to impress their friends or readers by repeating names that they have heard.
Others introduce a name that no one has heard just to see what the reaction might be. A third group is often either new to the game or doesn’t like to play by the rules, so they publicly introduce names based on deductive reasoning.
My reasonably well-founded guess is that Donald Hoffman, the long-time President and CEO of Excel Services, is near the top of a short list of potential candidates to become the Secretary of Energy.
One of the first hints that Don might be in the running for some kind of position within the Trump Administration came during the campaign in the form of an October article in EENews. Hoffman mentioned his opportunities to talk with Candidate Trump about nuclear energy’s capacity for abundant, reliable power production without pollution or CO2 emissions.
Hoffman described a more subdued, inquisitive and thoughtful nominee than the Trump portrayed in Twitter fights, catchphrases, insults and political barbs — a nominee, Hoffman said, who has an appreciation for the value of electricity from nuclear reactors.
“He’s quite insightful; one-on-one, he’s really excellent. He asked some very insightful questions; we talked about the business of nuclear and the things we were doing in New York for the zero-emission credit and hoping to take the concept out to other states,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman could not attest to what Trump does — or doesn’t — think about climate change. Hoffman doesn’t have a Twitter account, nor did he see Trump’s 2012 tweet in which the nominee asserted that climate change policy is an attempt to stifle American manufacturing at the expense of overseas competition, Hoffman said.
“During our discussions, he clearly understood the need for addressing carbon emissions and the potential deleterious effects to the environment.”
Who Is Donald Hoffman?
Hoffman joined Trump’s Leadership Council in March. He is a successful businessman who founded and built a company on the foundation of the technical expertise and management skills he developed during nine years of service in the Nuclear Navy and four years of service as a professional staff member at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. His company, Excel Services Corporation, is a respected nuclear engineering and consulting firm.
Excel Services isn’t a widely known brand outside of the industry it serves, so here is a brief description provided in a profile published in the American Nuclear Society’s Nuclear News at the time Hoffman became President of the ANS.
In 1985, Hoffman left the NRC and formed EXCEL Services Corporation, lo- cated in Rockville, Md., in order to address what he perceived as the need to balance safety and performance/cost issues in a manner that would improve the overall safety and performance of nuclear power facilities. “At the time, there was not a lot being done in that arena,” Hoffman said, “and I thought it would be interesting to do it.”
(His company, he insists, was the first in the United States to be named EXCEL, predating the Microsoft product.)
Hoffman describes his firm as “an international nuclear engineering company that specializes in regulatory and operational initiatives that enhance safety, improve performance, and reduce costs of operating nuclear facilities.” Over the past 28 years, he noted, EXCEL has done business with virtually every U.S. nuclear utility and every nuclear plant and enrichment facility in the United States. The company is also currently working on projects in 21 countries, as well as with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Nuclear Association, among other organization
For nearly a quarter of a century, Excel has generously supported the work of the American Nuclear Society, a 15,000-member technical society made up of scientists, engineers and technical specialists focusing on nuclear science and technology.
Hoffman has been an active participant in the Society. He has served on the Board of Directors and as President, a job with nominally a one year term of office that requires a three year commitment. The first year is spent traveling and meeting society members as the President Elect, and the second year leading the organization as the President, and the third year advising and special projects management as the immediate Past President.
Is Hoffman Too Focused On A Single Energy Source To Be Secretary Of Energy?
People with the technical capacity to understand nuclear energy are well suited to understand the workings of other energy sources and advanced scientific research. Don has proven that he is a capable manager and leader in a way that will most likely appeal to President Trump; he established his track record as a successful businessman in a challenging industry.
During his service and travels as ANS President and immediate Past President, Hoffman expanded on his already deep understanding of the important role that energy plays in our modern economy.
He has held discussions with leaders in coal, oil, gas, wind, hydro, solar and biomass. He’s been working to explain the Trump approach to sensible energy and has recently founded a non-profit named Sensible Energy Matters to America (SEMA) to help spread that message as widely as possible.
Hoffman is not the only member of Trump’s circle of advisors that recognizes the value of nuclear energy. Senator Jeff Sessions, Peter Thiel and Scott Bannon also support nuclear energy development and deployment.
I imagine that several of Trump’s advisors have spoken to him about nuclear energy’s untapped potential. From the 1940s to the 1970s, America was the greatest supplier of atomic energy to the world. People in Trump’s generation clearly remember that period of nuclear greatness.
That lost greatness came as a result of many of the factors that Candidate Trump talked about consistently on the stump. The factors the contributed to nuclear energy’s fall from grace in the U.S. include “cost-is-no-object” regulation, poor management, bad trade deals, foreign efforts to handicap U.S.-based manufacturing and narrowed visions of the potential for human growth and development.
Nuclear went through a lengthy period during which it was not politically correct. In fact, it wasn’t long ago that being pro-nuclear was considered to be the third rail of politics. Admitting that position was nearly certain to cause political death.
Now, people at one end of the political spectrum recognize that we need our energy sources to be clean so that they do not contribute to air pollution or climate change. Many have reluctantly revised their indoctrinated position against nuclear energy because of its emission-free nature.
People on the other end of the spectrum understand the value of abundant energy and believe that regulations should be limited to protecting people and private property interests and not used as a club to halt development. They believe nuclear energy is fine as long as it can compete in the market.
Based on annual public opinion surveys, a majority of people in the middle of the political spectrum have always favored the safe development of nuclear energy.
A Secretary of Energy with a strong government, business, technical and non-profit group background in nuclear energy with a good understanding of all other energy options would be a good fit with Trump’s stated vision.
Robust nuclear energy growth would help Trump achieve his vision of restoring American manufacturing, improving our infrastructure, developing high-skilled jobs and expanding our international competitiveness.
Disclosure: I’ve been a declared supporter of Don Hoffman for several years. Here is a piece published in 2012 – Don Hoffman is one of my heroes – a nuclear leader who recognizes threat from natural gas
Note: A version of the above post appeared on Forbes.com under the headline “Will Donald Hoffman Be President Trump’s Secretary Of Energy?”. This modified version has been published here with permission.
“He’s been working to explain the Trump approach to sensible energy….”
Oh? Is he clairvoyant?
If you know that Hoffman is doing this, you must also know what Trump’s “approach to sensible energy” is. Please enlighten us, Rod, I await with bated breath.
No clairvoyance is needed for someone who has been on the Trump Leadership Council since March. As noted in the post, Hoffman has talked to Trump about energy.
Sensible energy is a “best of the above” approach that recognizes that different energy sources have different strengths and weaknesses that make them better suited that others for each application.
That is an approach that recognizes that roof mounted solar panels can be a terrific investment in certain areas, while exactly the same system would be a poor use of resources in other areas. It recognizes that some wind can be useful, but that too much wind can destabilize the whole grid. It recognizes that natural gas is a great fuel and that it is selfish to burn it up as fast as possible today, leaving nothing left for future generations.
Sensible energy prohibits actions that are proven to be hazardous and places restrictions on those that could cause harm to others. It takes a somewhat skeptical approach to distant hazards like climate change. That approach doesn’t deny that it is happening, but it questions whether or not “We’re all gonna die” if we do not take immediate action. It is especially skeptical about recommendations for immediate action that seem to be very high cost with very little long term effect on the total emissions of greenhouse gases or predicted temperatures.
Thats YOUR idea of “sensible energy”, Rod. And it sounds very reasonable. And, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that you still entertain the same thoughts tomorrow. A shame Trump doesn’t share your solidarity with sane and consistent reflection.
We’ll see, won’t we? Perhaps he’ll tweet his thoughts to you, if you throw an insult at ‘im.
Btw….you see that a hurricane might just make land fall in Costa Rica? First time in recorded history….
Btw Rod, at the excel website, the last “event” entry is a year old. I was hoping to find a bit more recent entries about what Hoffman and Excel have been doing. If you’re in contact with him, and Trump is actually considering Hoffman, you might wanna contact Donald, and recommend an update. The site is about to get alot of visitors.
In doing numerous searches since Rod posted this topic, Hoffman doesn’t appear. The leading contenders seem to be Chris Christie, and Rick Perry.
Personally, I wish my neighbor was raising unicorns, instead of sheep. I’ve always wanted to trailer a unicorn up to Idaho, so I could be the first to ride the Selway Bitteroot trails on a unicorn. But, alas, I looked out my window this morning, and saw only ewes. So, instead, I guess I’ll sail the yawl over to Phoenix this week.
This article here, without providing direct citation, claims that Hoffman has expressed strong doubt that he will wind up heading the DOE.
“For his part, Hoffman remains hopeful — though he concedes that his chances of heading up the Department of Energy are slim. Indeed, signs are now pointing to the oil mogul Harold Hamm as Secretary Moniz’s likely successor.”
I’m not sure what you mean by “without providing a direct citation.” The author of the piece, an experienced freelance science journalist and journalism instructor at Northeastern University and Brandeis University, provided his citation at the beginning of the article.
“In a telephone interview with Undark”
He was not reporting what someone else had written; he talked to Hoffman directly.
Your quote stopped right before the following:
Nonetheless, Hoffman thinks he’s qualified for the spot.
“I do believe that I have a unique capability to serve as the Secretary of Energy,” says Hoffman. “This is my life’s dream. I just want to do great things for my nation. I want to make sure we have the right ideas being implemented.”
Time will tell. There hasn’t been any announcement yet or even an attributable “trial balloon” from the transition team.
As I wrote before (since unkindly vanished despite being on-topic), personnel is policy. The selection of a nuclear industry insider and promoter to head Energy has the potential to sweep away a lot of the speed-bumps and roadblocks facing the industry. That in turn could spark a massive boom in nuclear energy.
I’m dead certain that Trump, real-estate mogul that he is, knows exactly how his buildings work. The ones on Manhattan are almost certainly served by steam from ConEd. That steam, once made from coal, now comes from natural gas with oil backup. Trump also has to know how vulnerable the gas supply to New York is, as even ConEd has to be cut off during times of peak demand. Manhattan is one pipeline outage from freezing to death in a cold snap.
Nuclear power is the “distributed, local, diverse” energy supply that fixes all that. About 20 NuScale units could replace all of ConEd’s gas- and oil-burning plants. Uranium can’t freeze and doesn’t have compressor stations to go down. It represents unprecedented energy security.
Maybe Hoffman has already put that bug in Trump’s ear. Wouldn’t THAT be something?
Actually, EP, Rod is doing you a service by “vanishing” some of your comments. I believe you probably have no idea why he vanished the one you’re whining about. And that says volumes about you.
And before you go accusing me of pushing “fake news”, I mis-remembered: the Wikileaks revelation was that CitiGroup, not Goldman Sachs, selected Obama’s cabinet.
Excellent article and insights as always Rod. Here’s hoping the new SEC E will pursue the Future of Nuclear Energy’s task force recommendation.
IMHO way too much emphasis and attendant publicity has been given to the problem of CC & far too little to the personnel and real solutions we need ( and have at hand ). That’s primarily because our delinquent ‘ soi-disant’ enviro NGO’s and their attendant sycophantic followers in academia and the media are scared shitless that that this means their ‘ raison d’etre ‘ , their purpose and meaning in life , is now voided by the explicit need to deploy the one technology , the one solution that they have denounced all their miserable , ascetic , anti-progress lives
If Trump’s appointee on this , the crucial keystone of all modern civilisation , can see the clear view , our society may move forward into a better future
I have hope !
I heard a radio story a week ago suggesting that Rick Perry (AKA Governor Goodhair) was being considered for S. of Energy. Ironic, given that Perry couldn’t remember the name of the department in one of his classic blunders. I’ve been fervently hoping the story was wildly inaccurate ever since.
Perry went from next to no assets to having more than a score millions during his “public service” in Texas and he pretty much wrecked our ability to build non-toll road ways in the process. A little parasitism isn’t terrible, but when it leaves the victim fatally wounded or at least maimed, it is cause for concern and a good reason to eradicate the parasite in question.
This election is guaranteed to include surprises regarding appointments. Trump’s appeal to voters centered around his America First policy. Past administrations have interfered with Yucca Mountain, assembled and transacted the Uranium One deal, subsidized the destruction of base load capacity with Wind Production Tax Credits and the various salvos of the War on Coal. Democrats created the Department of Energy 37 years ago – and our national energy policy today is as incoherent as ever. That record lends itself to a dim view of US DOEs work. In the same time frame US DOE was born, dozens of nuclear plants were abruptly cancelled. By today’s political standards, that would be rightly called the War on Nuclear.
Like “ObamaCare” – the entrance of government on a grand scale nearly assures destruction of the targeted sector. My rates doubled, my coverage comes with astronomical deductibles – as if I’m simply paying for others bad coverage. Your results may vary.
I have advised caution on linking the future of an industry on suspect science such as Anthropogenic Global Warming, more recently toned down to “Climate Change”.
I similarly advise caution on linking the future of an industry to a Secretary of Energy. Secretary Chu has enough nuclear background to have made a difference – but demonstrated that he could not.
We will either win by market competition, or we will go away by market competition. Either is fine with me. Enter government – and we’re done before the ink drys.
You misunderstand the reasons for my optimism. I’m not looking for the government to invent any new programs or provide any new resources to develop nuclear energy. I’m looking for people in government positions that recognize that nuclear energy has vast potential that often needs the government to get out of the way. Putting the right people into key government roles is one of the best ways to alter how government acts and treats various technologies.
Secretary Chu knew a little about the physics of nuclear energy, but he knew little or nothing about the business of producing useful heat or power for sale to consumers.
Rod, this seems a bit disingenuous. He was a fairly large advocate for nuclear before he even became secretary of energy: http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2007/06/18/nuclear-dark-horse-energy-alternative/
He was even the first author on a white paper begging for more nuclear before he became SoE: http://www.nei.org/News-Media/News/News-Archives/Steven-Chu-A-New-Era-For-Energy-Policy
And he kept pushing after becoming secretary of energy: http://www.shopfloor.org/2008/12/new-energy-secretary-chu-an-advocate-of-nuclear-power/
He didn’t need to be a businessman to recognize any of that. The man has a Nobel prize. The extent to which he was free to act was what was restricting him.
Additionally, if the government got out of the way and let industry sort it out, we’d be burning coal and only coal. Industry is focused on the bottom line, and are beholden to their shareholders to be this way. Countries with successful nuclear programs are almost all based on a state-run supplier and/or utility.
Also, I’m not sure where the buzz around Donald Hoffman is coming from. A cursory google only brings up this page and your Forbes article. Everyone else is talking about Harold Ham, Myron Ebell, and Rick Perry. At this point I would be over the moon if it was Hoffman, but I think it’s unwarranted optimism (perhaps to the point of delusion) to think he’s even in the top 5 of candidates, or that he would be any more effective than Steven Chu was if he gets the job.
“Additionally, if the government got out of the way and let industry sort it out, we’d be burning coal and only coal. Industry is focused on the bottom line, and are beholden to their shareholders to be this way.”
Exactly. Which is why Myron Ebell’s participation, in any capacity, is so alarming. His tentacles in the fossil fuel industry are firmly entwined with generating profits for the industry. He avoids any deep discourse about NE like the plague. When queried about NE, he is terse and noncommittal. It is as though he doesn’t want to draw attention to NE, and strives to keep it out of the energy debate and narrative. What it is about Trump, and those such as Ebell, that elicits such optimism from Rod and others here, just baffles me.
There is a difference between favoring nuclear energy and effectively supporting it.
If I’m not mistaken, Chu was the Secretary who followed along with the sabotage effort resulting in the DOE halting its support of the license evaluation of Yucca Mountain.
Nobel Prizes are awarded to scientists, not people who apply science or who are devoted to providing products and services that attract customer to make the free choice of purchasing those products.
I agree that industry is focused on the bottom line. What makes you think that digging coal out of the ground and then moving thousands of tons per day thousands of miles to provide fuel to a single 1000 MW coal plant is naturally more profitable than producing the same amount of electricity with a plant that needs $20 – $30 million worth of fuel shipped in on three or four trucks every 18 months.
Nuclear energy is a heck of a lot easier than the US government has made it to be. Our government’s influence on the technology’s path for development began in 1942 and has greatly affected the rest of the world. That does not mean it has to be that way.
“Putting the right people into key government roles is one of the best ways to alter how government acts and treats various technologies”
Yes. And that can be a good thing, or a bad thing. Picking the “right” people to make alterations is not always an exercise involving ethics. It depends on the motives behind the alterations, doesn’t it? Above, EP cites the involvement of citi-group in picking Obama’s cabinet. I recall looking into it when that accusation was first raised, and could find no evidence that the accusation was a falsehood. So, were the “right people” chosen? If so, “right” for whom? Personally, have no doubt Trump will pick the “right people” for the job he expects them to perform. My doubts lay more towards what task these “right people” are going to be asked to perform, and for what motives. I think the optimism here is really kinda premature, particularly when we look at Trump’s history, which exhibits very little in the way of motives except greed, and a quest for power.
I’m at a loss what he has done in the last year that makes you think that history should be ignored, and isn’t a harbinger of things to come.
Obviously, the definition of “right people” depends on your perspective. I’ve been working for more than 20 years to share my perspectives with the world; the definition of “right people” in one of my posts comes from my perspective. Feel free to agree or disagree.
I really think its premature to do either one. EP opines, above, that people constitute policy. You seem to think so to, to an extent. But as Mr. Ball points out about Chu, often intent is held back by constraints. And often not. For instance, are you aware of Betsy DeVos connections, and efforts to privatize education? So, she is the “right person” to reign supreme over out national education system, and inprove our public schools? Or, is she the “right person” to dismantle it, and assure an education system that favors the elite?
Background matters. A person’s actions, in the past, matter. You can’t just throw a person’s past away so that you can imagine they are something that they have already shown you they aren’t.
Good luck on remaking these people into what you wish they were. Trump has shown us what he is. And he just doesn’t fit in the portrait you’d like to paint. Neither does Ebell.
Like I say, we’ll see, won’t we? And it’ll be far too late to reverse course, even if we could.
I hope Rod is right that Hoffman is being seriously considered, and I agree with the notion (mentioned by EP) that personnel reflects policy.
Unfortunately, if personnel reflects policy, things really aren’t looking good. All (or almost all) of the news stories on Trump’s potential DOE picks (such as the one below) do not mention Hoffman. The Trump administration picks being discussed for DOE, and other pertinent agencies, are overwhelmingly nakedly pro-fossil people. Their agenda is clear. A significant roll back of fossil regulations, and other policies that help fossil (i.e., tilting both the regulatory and policy playing fields even more towards fossil). No help for nuclear.
That’s my read, anyway. I’d love to be proven wrong.
Jim, thanks for your response to my query on the other thread. Yours is a unique viewpoint, at least on this blogsite. One thing is for sure, its gonna be interesting to see where energy policy goes with this administration.
What amazes me is that its all guesswork trying to imagine the direction policies will take. Whats that mean? Well, it means that a presidential candidate just got voted into office, by two million less than a majority of voters, who haven’t a clue what the man is going to do.
The correct time to “guess” and discuss potential policies is BEFORE they are actual policies that become more difficult to reverse AFTER they are passed into law.
It’s easy to dismiss the words produced here because they are not the same words used by other sources or because the audience for Atomic Insights is far smaller in numbers than the audience for publications like the New York Times or the Washington Post.
Perhaps I am just being vain by pointing out that most of the ideas spread here are deeply researched and informed by both experience and a wide circle of knowledgable sources in a particular subject area. I also have an advantage over those who cannot review the site analytics to see where visitors are coming from or who are not privy to the email, text, telephone and face to face communications that indicate that the Atomic Insights audience is well placed to influence energy policy decisions.
There is certainly a strong possibility that future policies will take a direction that is different from the one that I am seeing develop. Please understand, however, that it is possible to have some clues and basis on which to make predictions.
“Please understand, however, that it is possible to have some clues and basis on which to make predictions”
Rod, the tone of your post possibly telegraphs that I may have offended you with my opposing conjecture about where Trump is going to take us. If so, that wasn’t my intent.
It just seems to me that often times the “clues and basis on which to make predictions” are right in front of our faces, and don’t require deep connections or inside knowledge to accurately predict. Trump has provided us with decades of “clues” about his honesty, his integrity, his regard for ethical business practices, and his respect for women, minorities, and the blue collar worker. And none of those clues, in my opinion, point to the kind of man that will govern in the manner you hope he will. But I not only think the man is lacking in character, I think he is unstable. I don’t base that on media sensationalism. I base it on what kind of behaviour people around me practice, as a whole, and how I would react to someone near me in business, family, or friendship, that conducts himself as Trump does. The twittering, the inability to let go of criticism, the need to return criticism with insult, the lying, and the unabashed narcissism, all build the impression that this is a man I would steer clear of, and who would not be welcome in any social, business, or family setting I fit into. Apparently, there are many here that would be proud to share the dinner table with him. I don’t find that encouraging. But also aparently, a very large majority of Americans feel the opposite. I do find that encouraging. Its unfortunate that Clinton was the alternative, but I suspect, as undersirable as a Clinton presidency would be, the potential damage would not be near as divisive, or far reaching.
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