WASHINGTON - A Senate panel approved former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to serve as Energy secretary in Trump administration.

Perry, tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to head the Energy Department, vowed in Senate hearings to be an advocate for an agency he once pledged to eliminate and promised to rely on federal scientists, including those who work on climate change.

"My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking," Perry said. "In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination."

At his confirmation hearing, Perry also pledged to promote and develop American energy in all forms, advance the department's science and technology mission and carefully dispose of nuclear waste. And he acknowledged that climate change is real.