DOE Secretary Rick Perry visits Sandia National Laboratories

Oct 22, 2018 3:00 PM

Rachel Sams | Albuquerque Business First | October 9, 2018

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry visited Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque Tuesday, highlighting the work of the lab’s scientists.

“I hope that each of you, in your own way, understand that you are involved in public service … it’s not lost on me how important that is,” Perry said, emphasizing the challenges faced both by the country and national labs.

One of those challenges, Perry said, is a perception issue in terms of what national labs do and the benefits of working at one, which makes it difficult to attract talent.

Labs Director Stephen Younger said Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security, is taking a “fresh look” at both compensation and benefits for Sandia employees.

The national lab, which employs around 11,000 in New Mexico, boasts an average annual salary of just over $100,000, according to Business First reporting.

Perry also discussed the use of fossil fuels and setting an example for less-developed countries, such as India, where fossil fuels accounted for over 73 percent of all energy consumption, according to The World Bank, a Washington, D.C.-based international financial institution.

“What we need to do is get them to use fossil fuel in an environmentally friendly way,” Perry said, adding that he is in favor of increasing funding to projects that have the potential to be highly impactful. “I don’t know what the next big thing is going to be.”

As part of his visit, Perry checked out some of Sandia's top projects, including the Z machine, which uses high magnetic fields to produce high temperatures, pressures and X-rays for research purposes.

Perry also spoke about the importance of cutting regulations for energy exporters and speeding up permitting processes. In July, the DOE made a rule change expediting the permitting of small-scale exports of natural gas, providing “significant benefits” for trading with Central and South America, Perry has said.