Energy. Environment. Economy.

Is Obama’s Energy Nominee Too Close to the Oil and Gas Industry?

Win McNamee/ Getty Images

A government reform group has questioned potential conflicts of interest by MIT professor Ernest Moniz, President Obama's pick to head the Department of Energy.

The Boston Globe takes a closer look at Ernest Moniz, President Obama’s choice to head the Department of Energy, questioning his connections to the oil and gas industry.

Moniz was nominated to head the DOE earlier this month, and has been the director of MIT’s Energy Initiative since 2006:

In a case highlighted this week by a watchdog group, Moniz and several other senior MIT participants were being paid by industry companies as they completed an influential study on the future of natural gas. That study downplayed the potential environmental impacts of “fracking,” the new and controversial process of injecting fluid into the ground to break up shale rocks and extract oil or gas.

Just before the report’s release in 2011, Moniz joined the board of an energy industry consulting firm, ICF International Inc., a sponsor of some of the MIT Energy Initiative’s work; in all he earned more than $150,000 from the Virginia-based firm that year, according to ICF corporate records.

The watchdog group hi-lighting Moniz’s ties to the industry is the Buffalo, N.Y.-based Public Accountability Initiative, which also recently issued a report examining the ties between Pennsylvania’s regulators and the gas industry.

Shortly after that Pennsylvania report came out, the Associated Press reported former Pennsylvania Congressman, Mark Critz, was going to go work for an energy consulting firm that promotes the gas industry.

Last Friday, the state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, Michael Krancer, announced he was stepping down to return to his former employer, the Philadelphia law firm, Blank Rome. Krancer will represent global and domestic energy clients as chair of the firm’s Energy, Petrochemical and Natural Resources Practice.



  • TheProspector

    Let’s be specific on what the problem is. Should the Energy Secretary have no knowledge of, or marketable skills in, energy? What if the appointee came from or went to an environmental group, would that be as bad? Why or why not? You make a point that Moniz worked for an energy consulting firm so that readers could make the inference that this was bad. If it was bad, why? A little more depth, please.

    • Marie Cusick

      Hi there,
      I provided the link to the Boston Globe article, because it does provide depth about the lack of transparency: “Moniz failed to disclose that financial relationship at the time the study was released, according to the watchdog group, the Public Accountability Initiative, raising concerns about the study’s integrity.”

      Whether you’re receiving money from an environmental group, or an industry group, that information should be clearly disclosed. -Marie

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