Ernest Moniz, MIT Physicist, Nominated as Energy Secretary
by Steven Mufson (The Washington Post) …At MIT, he has directed the school’s Energy Initiative, where he oversaw reports on almost every aspect of energy. And he has been a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
Moniz, who served as associate director of the White House office of science and technology policy and as undersecretary of energy under President Bill Clinton, is also devoted to the “all-of-the-above” strategy for energy that Obama has embraced. In a voluminous written and spoken record, Moniz has come out in favor of nuclear power, research into carbon capture and storage for coal, renewable energy and shale gas produced by hydraulic fracturing.
…But over the past couple of weeks, many environmentalists and some prominent renewable energy experts have tried to block the nomination of Moniz because of an MIT report supporting “fracking” — as hydraulic fracturing is commonly known — and because major oil and gas companies, including BP, Shell, ENI and Saudi Aramco, provided as much as $25 million each to the MIT Energy Initiative. Other research money came from a foundation bankrolled by shale gas giant Chesapeake Energy.
“We would stress to Mr. Moniz that an ‘all of the above’ energy policy only means ‘more of the same,’ and we urge him to leave dangerous nuclear energy and toxic fracking behind while focusing on safe, clean energy sources like wind and solar,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement Monday.
…Moniz was co-chair of an MIT study that recommended that “the U.S. should not erect barriers to natural gas imports or exports.”
…Driven by concerns about climate, Moniz favors nuclear power despite the catastrophe that Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami inflicted on that country, in part by destroying its Fukushima nuclear power plant.
…“What I believe is if we squeeze down on carbon, we squeeze up on cost, and it brings along a push toward efficiency; it brings along with it a push toward clean technology; it brings along with it a push toward security,” he said.
…Experts from MIT, where (Robert) Howarth (a Cornell professor of ecology and environmental biology) received his doctorate, criticized his report. Howarth said last week that the energy institute was “way too cozy with industry, and I think that’s affected their scholarship, and I’m worried about what that would mean.”
More broadly, Howarth said that Moniz is “clearly a believer that our strategy should be all of the above. I just think that’s the wrong policy.” Howarth predicted: “That’s going to lead to climate disaster. Shale gas is probably the worst of the fuels to use if you’re worried about climate change. It’s the wrong policy for a president concerned about climate change.”
Excerpt from GreenTechMedia: Moniz is seen as a safe pick. But he’s also taking a lot of heat from environmental groups that have slammed him because of his support of natural gas.
“At a time when the last thing we should be doing is undermining our progress against climate change, Moniz is the wrong choice to head one of the most important agencies in the fight for a sustainable energy future,” wrote Elijah Zarlin, campaign manager for the progressive activism group CREDO Action, in a petition email to stop Moniz’s nomination.
…Environmentalists also criticize Moniz’s role as the director of MIT’s Energy Initiative, an interdisciplinary research program on renewables, efficiency, and fossil fuels. Because the initiative has taken money from oil and gas companies for research, environmental groups worry that Moniz is too close to the fossil fuel industry.
Others in the business world are worried about another academic leading the DOE. Writing on this site recently, solar expert Jigar Shah said he thinks Moniz will put too much emphasis on R&D and not enough on critical tools for deployment. READ MORE