Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who once received a grade of “D” in a college class called “Meats,” shared a valuable science opinion today. Fossil fuels, the former Texas governor argued, prevent sexual assault.
Perry made the remarks during a discussion on energy policy with Chuck Todd and Axios CEO Jim VandeHei. During the remarks, Perry recalled a recent trip he’d taken to discuss energy matters in Africa. And then he got into the really puzzling part of the discussion.
“And it’s going to take fossil fuels to push power out into those villages in Africa,” Perry said, “where a young girl told me to my face, ‘one of the reasons that electricity is so important to me is not only because I’m not going to have to try to read by the light of the fire and have those fumes literally killing people.’ But also from the standpoint of sexual assault. When the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts.”
Putting aside the fact that those remarks would cause a person to lose a subregional Miss Texas pageant, let’s focus on what Perry is really saying here. Coal, oil, and natural gas don’t directly prevent sexual assault, although covering oneself in tar might disguise a person from the eye of potential assailants. Perry argued today that because fossil fuels provide electricity and electricity powers lights and sexual assault tends to occur in darker spaces, ergo fossil fuels prevent sexual assault.
First of all, as The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham notes, more light doesn’t necessarily lead to less crime, but people think it does.
Second of all, Rick Perry has never seemed to care about rape before this. In 2014, as governor of Texas, he refused to state whether he was complying with a law designed to prevent prison rape, a law that had been signed by President Bush in 2003. Maybe Perry was taking a stand against the federal government then, but it’s telling that rape victims matter or don’t matter depending on how they’re attached to other issues that Perry cares about.
But even if Rick Perry had a history of caring about rape, and even if light caused a reduction in rape, the connection between, say, coal mining and a drop in sexual assault is a stretch. There are several steps between oil and safety.
Fossil fuels prevent sexual assault sort of like how one time my cat urinated on a pile of my ex’s ties, which caused us to have a fight right before we moved in together, which caused escalating tension which led to a breakup, which led to me moving temporarily to the East Village where I discovered this little place that made deep fried hamburgers, which I ate quite a bit since this all occurred in the years before I stopped eating meat from mammals. In a way, my cat caused those hamburgers, the best hamburgers of my life.
In fact, the mining of fossil fuels is often associated with increased sex crimes and prostitution in the areas where the mining occurs. The rise in fracking across the U.S. several years back led to a subgenre of journalism documenting the social ills that accompanied the young, mostly male transient workforce. Writing for Vice in October 2013, Peter Rugh described the way “man camps” that housed fracking workforces also fostered a rise in sex crimes so serious that it got the attention of the Department of Justice. There was also a sharp uptick in cases of sexually transmitted diseases in these areas.
So if we’re buying Perry’s premise, that an effect several steps removed from fossil fuels can be attributed to fossil fuels, then, by gum, fossil fuels cause gonorrhea.