More depressing news. It looks like the rumor that the president was going to nominate Ernest Moniz to head the Department of Energy is well-founded.

The president will also nominate MIT scientist Ernest Moniz to head the Energy Department and EPA veteran Gina McCarthy to run the environmental agency.

Moniz, 69, oversees MIT's Energy Initiative, a research group that focuses on innovative ways to produce power while curbing greenhouse gas emissions. But unlike outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu, he is also well-versed in the ways of Washington, having served as the Energy Department's undersecretary in the Clinton administration.

Moniz has also advised Obama on central components of the administration's energy plan, including a retooling of the country's stalled nuclear waste program, energy research and development, and unconventional gas.

As I noted yesterday, this is an ugly development. Ernest Moniz has been leading an oil and gas industry initiative at MIT to sell hydraulic fracturing as safe and shale gas as the perfect bridge fuel.
That professor, nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, is director of the MIT Energy Initiative, a research arm that has received more than $125 million in pledges from the oil and gas industry since 2006, according to the Public Accountability Initiative, a non-profit that blew the whistle on UBuffalo.

The four “founding members” of MITEI — BP, Shell, Italy’s ENI and Saudi Aramco — each agreed to pay $25 million over five years for the right to help manage research projects, maintain an office at MITEI headquarters and “place a researcher in a participating MIT faculty member’s lab,” according to the MITEI website. Ten “sustaining members” commit $5 million each for fewer rights, but still get seats on MITEI’s executive committee and governing board.

Moniz also lead the publication of a report in 2011 that has become the playbook of the shale gas industry, "The Future of Natural Gas."
“The Future of Natural Gas” was a magnum opus that crowned natural gas as the “bridge to a low-carbon future.” It cited vast new supplies of cheap, clean-burning gas from shale drilling and recommended a switch from coal to natural gas in U.S. electric power generation, industry and transportation.
Of course, Moniz and company discounted evidence of substantial methane emissions from shale gas drilling operations.

The spin of the nomination is that we should ignore his record leading an industry sponsored public relations campaign for the shale gas industry. The Energy Department, we are told, has "no jurisdiction over fracking policy." It is far more concerned about nuclear waste, energy development laboratories, and energy efficiency.

More than 60 percent of the Energy Department’s budget is devoted to maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile and managing cleanup efforts at sites such as the decommissioned plant in Hanford, Wash., that earlier produced material for nuclear weapons. The department also funds national laboratories, sets appliance standards and aids state-level energy efficiency programs
I am sorry if I find the appointment of an oil and gas industry apologist to a cabinet level position to be a less than positive development. It signals that the administration's plan to address climate change centers around shale gas and nuclear power.
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.

“It would be a mistake ... to let Fukushima cause governments to abandon nuclear power and its benefits,” he wrote in a Foreign Affairs article in late 2011. “As greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, finding ways to generate power cleanly, affordably, and reliably is becoming an even more pressing imperative. Nuclear power is not a silver bullet, but it is a partial solution that has proved workable on a large scale.”

He has said that he favors federal assistance to build several new nuclear power plants this decade to give industry a better idea of economic costs.

In a tight federal budget, lets spend a few dozen billion to build new nuclear power plants.

Update: Courtesy of Transcript Editors

I’m proud to nominate another brilliant scientist to take his place -- Mr. Ernie Moniz.  There’s Ernie right there.  (Applause.)

Now, the good news is that Ernie already knows his way around the Department of Energy.  He is a physicist by training, but he also served as Under Secretary of Energy under President Clinton.  Since then, he’s directed MIT’s Energy Initiative, which brings together prominent thinkers and energy companies to develop the technologies that can lead us to more energy independence and also to new jobs.

Most importantly, Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while still taking care of our air, our water and our climate.

Emphasis added. That is a very poor description. The MIT Energy Initiative was funded by energy companies and the reports produced were shaped by those same companies.
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