People, Research, Science & environment

Kammen resigns federal post as science envoy, and adds plug for impeachment

By Robert Sanders

Dan Kammen
Dan Kammen, an energy expert, today resigned from his position as science envoy with the U.S. State Department.
Dan Kammen

Dan Kammen, an energy expert, today resigned from his position as science envoy with the U.S. State Department.

UC Berkeley’s Dan Kammen, who has served and advised the U.S. government in various capacities for over two decades, today resigned his appointment as science envoy for the State Department in light of President Donald Trump’s energy policies and statements surrounding the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Kammen, who is a professor and chair of the Energy and Resources Group and a professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy, added a not so subtle message in his seven-paragraph resignation letter to Trump. The first letter of each paragraph spelled out “IMPEACH.”

“My decision to resign is in response to your attacks on core values of the United States,” he wrote in the letter, dated Aug. 23. “Your failure to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis has domestic and international ramifications.”

“Acts and words matter,” he added. “To continue in my role under your administration would be inconsistent with the principles of the United States Oath of Allegiance to which I adhere.”

An expert on renewable energy and director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at Berkeley, Kammen has long conducted research in areas such as Africa, the Middle East, South America and Asia, advising countries in setting up sustainable energy networks and avoiding environmental impacts, such as those caused by palm oil producers in Indonesia. A recent paper assessed the viability of solar and wind energy in south and eastern Africa over the next 15 years as the continent expands power production to meet rapidly rising needs.

He was also a contributor to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with former Vice President Al Gore.

His 2010 appointment by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a clean energy fellow provided an opportunity to work more closely with countries in South and Central America “to design clean energy pathways, but also to stick with these ideas and see them put into practice,” he said at the time.

After the new administration took office, he continued his work under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“The staff at State is outstanding to work with,” Kammen wrote in an email. “I have not felt any interference.”

Yet Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord was in such direct conflict with his State Department role that he reconsidered his position.

In a blog post shortly after Trump was elected, Kammen wrote, “A president who claims to be a populist would be a hypocrite to do anything but actively promote and campaign for a sustainable climate and the clean energy business that goes with it, and to do so in ways that promotes energy access, equality and environmental justice. These are all pro-business, pro-worker positions.”

“The president’s response to the events in Charlottesville were sadly consistent with the pattern of behavior that is not in the best interests of the nation,” he said.

The Charlottesville statements finally spurred him to act, he said.

“Particularly troubling to me is how your response to Charlottesville is consistent with a broader pattern of behavior that enables sexism and racism, and disregards the welfare of all Americans, the global community and the planet,” he wrote in his letter.

Kammen, who is also a professor of nuclear engineering, says that he will continue to work with partner nations to promote renewable energy solutions to address climate change. This is in addition to the work he does with the state of California, which has included analysis of the state’s cap-and-trade system and efforts to reach carbon reduction goals set for 2020 and beyond.

Kammen concluded, “On the bright side, California and many other cities, states, regions and nations are taking a stand and building sustainable, inclusive economies. It will be a pleasure to work with them, and to return to federal service when conditions change.”

Dan Kammen's resignation letter to President Donald Trump