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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

The risks and rewards of charging state-backed hackers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Last week’s stunning indictment of three North Korean hackers laid bare both the advantages and drawbacks of the U.S. government’s evolving strategy of using high-profile prosecutions to publicize hostile nation-state cyber activities.

Why it matters: Criminal charges can help the U.S. establish clear norms in a murky and rapidly changing environment, but they may not deter future bad behavior and could even invite retaliation against U.S. intelligence officials.

33 mins ago - World

Scoop: Netanyahu asked Biden to keep Trump's sanctions on International Criminal Court

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Photo: Bas Czerwinski/ANP/AFP via Getty

Netanyahu asked Biden in their first phone call last week to keep sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on the International Criminal Court (ICC) in place, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli officials are concerned that removing the sanctions would hamper Israel's efforts to stop a potential war crimes investigation into Israel, and that the court's prosecutor could see it as a signal that the U.S. isn't firmly opposed to that investigation.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

FDA analysis finds Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine is safe and effective

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration's staff released a briefing document on Wednesday endorsing Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine as safe and effective.

The latest: Assuming the FDA issues an emergency use authorization "without delay," meaning as soon as this weekend, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said J&J will have 3 million to 4 million ready for distribution next week.