Introducing Obama's Likely Pick for Energy Secretary

Denis Poroy/AP

President Obama has settled on MIT professor Ernest Moniz to be the next head of the Energy Department, according to reports. Here's what you need to know about him.

  • No Stranger to Government. Moniz has held key energy policy roles under Presidents Clinton and Obama. As under secretary for energy from 1997 to 2001, he was the department’s public face in explaining in 1998 how the Cabinet agency failed to prevent one nuclear weapons plant from leaking nearly a million gallons of radioactive waste over time. A year later, he had to defend a nearly half-billion dollar, 16-year mistake in how the department handled such waste. Earlier in Clinton’s tenure, Moniz spent two years as the associate director for science in the president’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. In 2009, he was appointed to be a member of Obama’s Science and Technology Advisory Council. Moniz also has experience testifying before Congress, having discussed the Clinton administration’s energy policy in June 2000 and the future of natural gas in 2011.
  • Proponent of Good, Old-Fashioned Nuclear Energy. Moniz is an advocate for a low-carbon future and has, in a variety of forums, promoted the use of nuclear energy to get there. He favors improving on existing technologies, he told Dan Rather in 2011, arguing that untested new options take a long time to develop and are subject to a nuclear-licensing process "which is inherently tortuous." He also supports setting aside $36 billion in government loan guarantees to fund new nuclear-power plants. The hope, he said, is that such guarantees would ultimately come at no cost to the public. France, Japan, Korea, and Russia have made gains in recent years in recruiting talented nuclear workers, he said. But he said he was pleased to see that the United States seemed to be coming back to nuclear energy.
  • A Fan of Natural Gas—For Now. To the chagrin of some environmentalists, Moniz has described the growth in domestic shale-gas production over the past few years as paradigm-shifting. In introducing a major MIT report on the future of natural gas in 2010, he called it “a bridge to a low-carbon future.” In the long term, natural gas would likely be phased out in favor of zero-carbon options, he said. “For the next several decades, however, natural gas will play a crucial role in enabling very substantial reductions in carbon emissions,” Moniz said.
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