Moniz was asked about his views on fighting global warming, energy policy and on the massive radioactive contamination and treatment at the 70-year-old Hanford nuclear site in Washington, which was a key element of the U.S. drive in World War II to build a plutonium bomb and the 60,000 or so warheads produced since one was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. The Department of Energy took over the site in 1977. Health concerns were first raised as early as the 1960s and cleaning up has been on the national agenda for two decades, but there is still no viable plan for accomplishing that. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who chairs the Energy Committee, got Moniz's assurances that he will launch a strong effort to make progress at the site.
In answers to other questions, Moniz said:
[H]e backs an “all of the above” approach to energy, including oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear and renewable energy such as solar and wind. He also said climate change was real and that the Obama administration must take steps to battle the threat.While an affirmative vote in the committee and on the Senate floor is all but a certainty, some environmental groups are not pleased with Obama's choice because of Moniz's ties to the oil and gas industry, with one critic going so far as to label him Dr. Frackenstein for his support of hydraulic injection of water and chemicals to extract oil and gas from shale. Read more about Moniz's history, and ties to the oil and gas industry, below the fold.
“The need to mitigate climate-change risks is emphatically supported by the science and by the engaged scientific community,” he said.
Among other things, Moniz runs the MIT Energy Initiative. That oil industry-supported research program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has received nearly $150 million in pledges from the oil and gas industry since 2006. The four founding members of the energy initiative, each having put up $25 million, are BP, Shell, ENI and Saudi Aramco. In the energy initiative's 2011 report The Future of Natural Gas, Moniz called gas "one of the most cost-effective means by which to maintain energy supplies while reducing CO2 emissions." He has also been a consultant for BP, General Electric and a private equity firm that’s invested in oil and gas.
More than 100 mostly local groups co-signed an April 9 letter to the Energy committee urging senators to oppose Moniz. But only a few of the nation's major environmental groups were among them, even though the Sierra Club raised concerns when he was nominated. In the letter:
“We can’t let big oil and gas appoint our next energy secretary,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “As director of MIT’s Energy Initiative, Dr. Moniz has been an outspoken proponent of natural gas. But appointing Dr. Moniz to help shape our nation’s energy agenda would be akin to tapping a fast food CEO to draw up the next food pyramid—completely inappropriate.”Moniz's grab-bag "all of the above" energy approach, which mirrors President Obama's, has also drawn fire.
According to a recent Public Accountability Initiative report, the MIT Energy Initiative has received pledges of over $145 million from oil and gas industry companies including $50 million from BP and $25 million each from ENI, Saudi Aramco and Shell. As an individual, Dr. Moniz has received compensation from BP’s Technology Advisory Council, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah’s Petroleum Studies and Research Center and ICF International, among others. Dr. Moniz has also served on the boards of the Gas Technology Institute and the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America, which both promote the natural gas industry.
Moniz distanced himself from his past support for a carbon tax while responding to a question from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).Unfortunately, nobody in the administration is discussing the possibility of carbon taxes.
“The Department of Energy is not the locus of discussions about such fiscal policies,” Moniz said. “Our principal job is to push the technology innovation to get the cost of the low-carbon technologies as low as possible.”
The Energy Committee has not yet scheduled a time for a vote on Moniz.