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.
Like outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Moniz is alarmed about climate change and devoted to funding scientific research into low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuel.
“He brings expertise, experience in a prior administration and real science credibility,” said Ian Bowles, former Massachusetts secretary of energy and environmental affairs and now a managing director of venture firm WindSail Capital. “You can argue about whether you want to have a scientist, but within that food group he’s an excellent choice.”
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.
Ironically, the Energy Department has no jurisdiction over fracking policy. The Environmental Protection Agency is weighing whether to impose new regulations under the Clean Water and Clean Air acts. The Interior Department owns many of the lands that oil companies want to exploit and is devising standards for fracking in those areas. State governments currently handle most regulation.
But the Energy Department issues licenses for terminals exporting liquefied natural gas, which some industries would rather keep at home to keep prices low. Moniz was co-chair of an MIT study that recommended that “the U.S. should not erect barriers to natural gas imports or exports.”