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Ernest Moniz
Ernest Moniz drew no fire at Energy Committee's confirmation hearing.
With most attention on Capitol Hill focused on gun regulations and the shocking and shameful parts of President Obama's 2014 budget proposal Tuesday, there was a little noticed, easy-peasy confirmation hearing at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for the guy nominated to be the next U.S. secretary of energy, Ernest Moniz. The questioning was wide-ranging, but except for a handful of pointed queries from Republicans, it was mostly softball.

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.

“The need to mitigate climate-change risks is emphatically supported by the science and by the engaged scientific community,” he said.

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.

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.”

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's grab-bag "all of the above" energy approach, which mirrors President Obama's, has also drawn fire.
Moniz distanced himself from his past support for a carbon tax while responding to a question from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

“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.”

Unfortunately, nobody in the administration is discussing the possibility of carbon taxes.

The Energy Committee has not yet scheduled a time for a vote on Moniz.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:50 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We need a carbon tax ASAP. (9+ / 0-)

    Forget about carbon trading, which rewards the problem makers and will inevitably lead to a bureaucracy ripe for manipulation. A tax would foster conservation and raise revenues.

    Saying we must do something about global warming isn't the same as actually doing something about it. We need huge changes and we get "all of the above", in other words, "more of the same".

    We should be worried about Moniz. Moniz should see a hair stylist.

  •  I also favor an all of the above, however.. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    714day, GreyHawk, CupaJoe

    We are spinning wheels by running out nominees who will not openly address the science of why and the risks.  

    We are so tied up in making sure we don't offend anyone on any side of the issue that we aren't even discussing the issue.  

    This is something we have to get away from.   Deal with the issue head on, blunt and say: this is why.  If you aren't prepared to back up a view and you spend a confirmation half-stepping, mitigating, and spinning then all it tells me is that we will not know enough about what any real strategy is.

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

    by Chris Reeves on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 04:31:36 PM PDT

    •  "We" aren't running out of appropriate nominees, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tmservo433, GreyHawk, NoMoreLies

      savvy politicians staying cozy with big oil don't want to see them. That's why Moniz is a perfectly acceptable choice for the Washington crowd. He's intelligent enough to know better but can practice moral relativism like the bandit he is.
      A guy who presents "academic" study results to the public as though they have not been ginned up by the industries that will benefit the most (and does so with a straight face) more than retards the correct energy moves, he purposely obstructs them.

  •  Moniz makes me afraid.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreyHawk, jakedog42, NoMoreLies

    ...very, very afraid.  I thought Obama's cabinet appointments in his first term were terrible, but now Geithner and Summers, Emmanuel, Axelrod, Chu et. al. look like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs compared to his current selections.

    "The war against Bradley Manning is a war against us all." Chris Hedges

    by dharmasyd on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 04:49:59 PM PDT

    •  Well, just be grateful you have a moderate (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Republican President in the White House.

      For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

      by Anne Elk on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 04:37:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hey, knock off Steven Chu, okay? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Steven Chu is awesome.  He's one of the world's most renowned renewable energy experts and one of the biggest alarmists on the global warming front.

      And to add, Chu was the Director of the Lawrence Berkeley Labs in the North Berkeley hills, a mike from where I live.  Us Berkeley natives are proud of Chu and all those renewable energy scientists out there!

      •  Hey pips... (0+ / 0-)

        'nother Berkeley native here.  Also live about a mile (by Crow) from LLNL, worked there in undergrad days.  I didn't like Chu's non-positions on Fukushima.  But you could be correct.  

        "The war against Bradley Manning is a war against us all." Chris Hedges

        by dharmasyd on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 07:02:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This Administration is going to run on (6+ / 0-)

    the "all of the above" approach to energy policy from now until Obama leaves office, of that I am sure.  As in Obama's fiscal policies (too timid and too set in capitalists' language), his energy policy is set on going 20 mph in a 50 mph zone.  All the evidence is rushing at us at break neck speed and he wants to putt putt along with absolutely no sense of urgency.  

  •  Obama is batting poorly on his nomonations (6+ / 0-)

    Michael (Monsanto) Taylor in charge of our food security;
    the Sylvia (Walmart Foundation) Matthews Burwell to head Office of Management and Budget;
    Eric (Too Big to Jail) Holder to head up the DOJ;
    now this.

    About Keystone, both of Obama's Secty of State (who makes the recommendation on such) choices Rice and Kerrry both have conflicts of interest because of huge investments in Canadian oil and related Canadian companies.

    If you want a fox to guard the hen house, consult with whoever he's using for advice.

  •  Ernie Moniz (7+ / 0-)

    He's a very smart guy but he's also a corporate guy.  MITEI (MIT Energy Initiative) was all about getting corporate bucks for the university corporation.  They went after oil, gas, coal, and nukes because that's where the money was, is, and will be for the foreseeable future.  My read is that they didn't take solar and efficiency seriously (except as lip service) until the students kicked them into it and Dan Nocera's "artificial leaf" experiments panned out.  

    Moniz knows that climate change is real but has no good ideas about dealing with it outside of the conventional wisdom.  Look for no groundbreaking ideas from him.  He is more of the same with the general air of complacence.

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 10:53:51 PM PDT

    •  Internally to MIT (4+ / 0-)

      Moniz is well understood to be buddy, for a cut, to the oil and gas sorts.  The rest is camouflage and flimflamery.

      The Energy Initiative started as a quiet effort to get American nuclear reactor technologies up to speed for the day when oil and gas do run out.  That ran into Steve Chu's incapacity and timidity, along with an insider groupthink in Washington that gas and fracking are where it's at for the next couple of years- and the gas companies do payoffs.  Nuclear tech companies can't and don't.

      It's been an Administration without a clear set of aspirations or ethos to pursue them.  The result has been to create nothing and to somewhat prevent the large corporations from making things a lot worse.  But the will for even this is minimal or is about to be expunged by the present series of appointees.  Maybe the billionaires won this election without us realizing it after all.

  •  Thanks for exposing this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stevej, NoMoreLies

    I have long since stopped looking to politicians to help us survive climate change. Reading about the dilbit disasater in the Kalamazoo River I have learned to respect the first responders, the people on the ground from state and local agencies. They really care and they try to do their important clean-up work often without proper training and against the oil industry's campaign to mislead and deceive the public.

    I think we have to focus on the local when it comes to out environment.

    Monitz will be appointed and he will focus on increasing nuclear energy (he is a nuclear scientist) and fracking for gas and shale oil. That's what "all of the above" means. But as he goes along with the president's destructive energy policies he will face some opposition on the ground.

    I'm betting he is for the Keystone XL pipeline to move dilbit from Canada's Tar Sands to the Gulf for export.

  •  Our Commander n Chief is acting strange (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    these days.....

    Mitt Romney was CEO of Bain until Aug 2001. Proof of Bain & Romney Fraud

    by laserhaas on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 04:36:44 PM PDT

  •  he really likes nukes. (0+ / 0-)

    That's a big problem

  •  Moniz seems like just another Moneybot (0+ / 0-)

    Congrats future generations on your crappy planet.


    Obama: self-described moderate Republican

    by The Dead Man on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 04:38:39 PM PDT

  •  Bad choice (0+ / 0-)

    but not a surprising choice. This administration cannot even be bothered to pretend to care anymore.

  •  Anyone the R's are remotely willing to confirm (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is by definition a huge dick.   Even if he does sport a delightfully non-conformist hair-do.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 04:40:53 PM PDT

  •  This is wrong on so many levels. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Ernest Moniz?

    Ernest Moniz?

    The universe is send us a clear message here. Not that it will make a difference....

    Denial is a drug.

    by Pluto on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 04:43:16 PM PDT

  •  pres 44 (0+ / 0-)

    loves him some progressives at election time but afterward not so much, the backstabbing continues unabated.

  •  He could be a good factor ... maybe (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As head of the MIT program he needed to bring in grants, period. He has been consistent in his statements about anthropogenic climate change, so he knows. As Secretary of Energy he may consider his job to be an adjunct to big energy, or he may consider that his roll is to do the right thing. His statement about reducing the cost of sustainables is suspect. The real issue here is that fossil fuels are not paying the external costs associated with extraction and CO2 emissions. In addition, in all probability, we are past the tipping point and we are going into Climate Crisis. This means that the cost of building a sustainable infrastructure is insignificant compared to the probable outcome of not doing this in terms of human life and well being.

  •  He's got the best hair since APJ Abdul Kalam (0+ / 0-)

    Former President of India

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 05:05:26 PM PDT

  •  Well, the term "some environmental groups" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    includes sets of people who know very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very little about the environment, consisting entirely of people who have never opened a science book in their lives.

    It's pretty funny to hear Hanford described as a "major environmental problem," when the minor environmental problem of air pollution, which kills, according to the World Health Organization, causes 3.3 million deaths per year, elicits not a peep.

    That's Daily Kos fer yah.

    For the record, we could take all of the money invested in making Hanford "safe" and buy health care for poor children and save vastly larger numbers of lives than all of the money spent on Hanford will save, because, despite all the fear and ignorance around the topic, the health risks of the leaking tank, while hardly neglible, do not amount to very much in comparison to lack of access to health care.

    In any case, there is nothing that the Secretary of Energy can do to make the environment "safe."

    The figures for 2013 at Mauna Loa show a tremendous acceleration in the rate of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, in part because all of the fear of and ignorance about so called "nuclear waste," which has killed almost no one in the last sixty years garnered for more attention than dangerous fossil fuel waste.

    In fact, we can argue that fear and ignorance surrounding nuclear energy have caused the largest ever amounts of deadly dangerous fossil fuel waste to be dumped, at least for those of us who can understand the magnitude of numbers.

    As for fossil fuel funding, how come I never hear complaints here about the "renewables will save us" and "conservation will save us" anti-nuke moron Amory Lovins, who "consults" for "fees" for the company, Suncor, that runs the tar sands outfit in Canada, and lots of other dangerous fossil fuel companies?

    Mr. Lovins’s other clients have included Accenture, Allstate, AMD, Anglo American, Anheuser-Busch, Bank of America, Baxter, Borg-Warner, BP, HP Bulmer, Carrier, Chevron, Ciba-Geigy, CLSA, ConocoPhillips, Corning, Dow, Equitable, GM, HP, Invensys, Lockheed Martin, Mitsubishi, Monsanto, Motorola, Norsk Hydro, Petrobras, Prudential, Rio Tinto, Royal Dutch/Shell, Shearson Lehman Amex, STMicroelectronics, Sun Oil, Suncor, Texas Instruments, UBS, Unilever, Westinghouse, Xerox, major developers, and over 100 energy utilities. His public-sector clients have included the OECD, the UN, and RFF; the Australian, Canadian, Dutch, German, and Italian governments; 13 states; Congress, and the U.S. Energy and Defense Departments.
    Famous anti-nuke Amory Lovins describes his sources of revenue.

    Anyway, congratulations anti-nukes on your big, big, big, big win.   Heckuva job.  You must be very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very proud.

  •  Forget the policy questions.. (0+ / 0-)

    Did anyone ask him about his hippie hair cut? Maybe the President thought if he had a progressive looking person in the position it would appease the progressives. :)

    Looks like a lawyer for the Grateful Dead.



    "Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here." Marianne Williamson

    by Canadian Green Card Alien on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 05:22:56 PM PDT

  •  Well there's your problem right there, Dr. Moniz! (0+ / 0-)

    We don't need to "mitigate climate-change risks." We need to avert global warming by halting the carbon pollution that's causing it. There's a lot more at stake than somebody's ocean-front property getting damaged in a storm.

    Avert, as in preventing the house from burning down. Rather than mitigating, which is like moving closer to the air conditioner when somebody strikes the match that's going to burn the house down.

    It's crap like this that makes me wonder if Obama has been correctly informed about the speed and seriousness and permanence of climate change.

  •  Dept of "Energy" has everyone fooled (0+ / 0-)

    As if it's even a little bit about energy.

    2/3 of the DOE budget is for nuclear weapons. Were there any questions about nuclear weapons? Any coverage in the press?

    We have all been played for fools, led to believe that the DOE is even remotely about energy. It's about nuclear weapons.

    “Americans are fighters. We're tough, resourceful and creative, and if we have the chance to fight on a level playing field, where everyone pays a fair share and everyone has a real shot, then no one - no one - can stop us. ”-- Elizabeth Warren

    by Positronicus on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 05:59:11 PM PDT

  •  All I can say is that if we get to talk about (0+ / 0-)

    Ashley Judd's tits with respect to her potential candidacy for the Senate, then we get to disqualify this guy because of his haircut.

    To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

    by UntimelyRippd on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 07:19:23 PM PDT

  •  getting a decent haircut doesn't take that much (0+ / 0-)


    Howard Fineman needs to have a chat with Chris Cilizza about Grecian Formula and its effects on punditry

    by memofromturner on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 09:09:24 AM PDT

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