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.
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.