Ernest Moniz, President Barack Obama’s pick for Energy Secretary, glided easily through the nomination process, garnering unanimous support from the Senate. The MIT physics professor replaces Steven Chu, who stepped down in April.
Moniz served as undersecretary for the agency during the Clinton Administration. He currently runs MIT’s Energy Initiative, which is partly funded by the oil industry. Moniz supports shale gas production, and his nomination won praise from the American Petroleum Institute’s CEO Jack Gerard.
“Secretary Moniz understands the energy revolution underway in the United States,” wrote Gerard in a release. “New technology and the use of that technology are showing we have vastly more energy potential than we thought we had even just a short time ago. The U.S. is awash in natural gas with huge additional productive capacity that can fully supply domestic markets with affordable and clean-burning natural gas, enhance our energy security and allow for exports well into the future.”
API is lobbying hard for approval to export liquefied natural gas. The Department of Energy is looking at about two dozen applications for LNG export terminals. As prices have dropped domestically, companies could fetch three times the price for natural gas overseas.
Environmental groups, like the Sierra Club, took a more muted response to Moniz’s confirmation.
“When looking at a full picture of what increased fracking would mean for Americans’ health and future, we are confident the DOE will find that LNG exports are not in the best interest of the American public,” said the Sierra Club’s Natural Gas Campaign Director Deb Nardone. “Natural gas is a dirty, dangerous fossil fuel, which poses serious health risks due to air and water pollution from fracking and releases large quantities of methane – a gas that has more than 70 times the climate impact of carbon dioxide.”
Meanwhile, the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee agreed to move the Obama Administration’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, to the full Senate. But that committee vote was far from unanimous, and McCarthy faces tough scrutiny by Senate Republicans.