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Steve Winberg, who was sworn in just before Thanksgiving as the Energy Department's assistant secretary for fossil energy, on Tuesday deferred to Congress on the Trump administration's big budget cuts to his office and said it's not his job to set climate change policy.

Driving the news: Winberg, whose remarks at an event hosted Tuesday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies were his first on the new job, is in the hot seat because President Trump and his top advisers say they support robust development of technologies that capture carbon emissions from coal plants and other emitting facilities. Much of what happens on this issue will come down to his office, and so far it's not much.

On the budget cuts: "The president made it very clear that he wants DOE to be focused on basic, fundamental research and early stage research … Congress set the budget, and we'll manage the budget accordingly based on what Congress appropriates for us."

Reality check: The office Winberg oversees would receive a 54% budget cut under Trump's proposal, though Congress is expected to keep funding mostly the same.

On whether he thinks climate change is a reason to invest in carbon capture technology: "We are not going to stop using fossil energy any time soon, so if we're going to go on an aggressive path to carbon reduction, [carbon capture] has to be part of the answer." And later to reporters: "I think it's not my job to set policy on climate change. It's my job to develop technologies that might address climate change, but would address a lot of other issues as well."

Reality check: Captured carbon is put to use in other ways, such as to extract oil in certain geological formations, but to really develop the capture technology on a broad, commercial basis, experts who spoke after Winberg agreed there needs to be explicit climate policy.

Go deeper

10 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.