Rick Perry under fire for suggestion fossil fuels can reduce sexual assault

US energy secretary faces criticism from Sierra Club after describing girl who told him about the importance of energy in African village

The US energy secretary, Rick Perry, has said he thinks employing fossil fuels can help prevent sexual assault, sparking criticism from the Sierra Club, which accused Perry of exploiting the fight of those affected by climate change.

Perry, who was at an energy meeting in Africa last week, said on Thursday that fossil fuels are applied to power electricity could help developing regions in the continent.

The Trump administration has been pushing to increase domestic production of fossil fuel for exportation, with Perry specifically challenging what he calls an inaccurate narrative pushed by environmentalists that fossil fuels are harmful because they contribute to climate change.

” Let me tell you where people are dying, is in Africa, because of the lack of energy they have there ,” Perry said at an event sponsored by the news site Axios and NBC News.

” And it’s going to take fossil fuel to push power out into those villages in Africa, where a young girl told me to my face:’ One of the reasons that energy means so much to me is not just because I’m not going to have to try and read by the sun of a fire and have those fumes literally killing people .'”

He continued:” But also from the standpoint of sexual assault. When the illuminations are on, when you have sunlight that shines the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts .”

Perry’s remark comes amid an uproar over sexual assault allegations against the film mogul Harvey Weinstein that has spread to other industries and politics.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest environmental group, called Perry’s comments offensive.

” It was already clear that Rick Perry is unfit to lead the Department of Energy, but to suggest that fossil fuel growth will decrease sexual assault is not only blatantly untrue, it is an inexcusable attempt to minimize a serious and pervasive issue ,” Brune said in a statement.

” Women, and particularly women of colour, are among the most severely impacted by the climate crisis, and it is these same communities that are most at risk of sexual assault ,” Brune said.

Perry’s” attempt to exploit this struggle to justify further dangerous fossil fuel development is unacceptable”, Brune said, adding that Perry should resign immediately.

Shaylyn Hynes, a Department of Energy spokeswoman, told the Hill that in Africa,” one person told[ Perry] about how light can be a deterrent to sexual assault and security in remote areas “.

She added:” Those powerful narratives stuck with him and that is something that he was sharing with the crowd in Washington today .”

On the 2012 presidential campaign trail, Perry called for the Department of Energy to be abolished.

In January, at a Senate confirmation hearing to lead relevant agencies he once pledged to eliminate, Perry said he regretted calling for the department’s demolition.

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