This morning President Obama announced his intention to nominate Ernest Moniz to be the next secretary of energy. Describing Moniz as a “brilliant scientist,” the President lauded Moniz for his work at the Department of Energy and MIT, adding “Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while still taking care of our air, our water, and our climate.”
Moniz is the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, director of the MIT Energy Initiative, and director of the Laboratory for Energy and Environment. Moniz has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Stanford University and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a Member Society of the American Institute of Physics.
During the Clinton Administration, Moniz was the Associate Director for Science at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, headed by John Gibbons. Moniz also served as the Undersecretary of Energy from 1997-2001 with a rather extensive portfolio, including the Office of Science. More recently, Moniz was on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Energy Future, and is currently a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on the Moniz nomination. Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) issued the following statement this morning:
“I look forward to discussing with Ernest Moniz the many issues before the Energy Department that are so vital to the nation’s energy security. That includes: reengaging Dr. Moniz over the problems with cleaning up nuclear waste at the Hanford Site; finding creative ways to promote new technologies and harness the ingenuity of America’s energy innovators; and examining the diverse opportunities to attack climate change and transition to a low-carbon economy.”
Committee Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) issued a more nuanced statement regarding the Moniz nomination and that of Gina McCarthy to be the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency:
“I will withhold judgment until I've had a chance to speak to the nominees directly, but my main concern is that both agencies take immediate steps to restore balance to our nation’s energy and environmental policies. That balance has been missing for the past four years but must play a more prominent role going forward if we are to bolster our struggling economy. I’m willing to work with both DOE and the EPA to address the shared challenges we face, but it truly must be done in a way that recognizes the benefits of an energy supply that is not only clean, but also abundant, affordable, diverse and secure. My support will depend on both nominees demonstrating that they can lead DOE and the EPA in a way that restores balance to these objectives.”
“I hope the Senate will confirm them as soon as possible,” Obama said, adding that he knows they “will hit the ground running” after their confirmation. The Senate nomination process can be difficult, with confirmations delayed by disputes over a wide range of policy matters. A recent example is Senator Murkowski’s statement indicating she would block the confirmation of the new secretary of the interior because of an Interior Department decision opposing the construction of a road in an Alaskan wildlife refuge.
Energy Secretary Chu attended today’s East Room event. Obama praised Chu for his service, remarking:
“One of those challenges is building on the work that we've done to control our own energy future while reducing pollution that contributes to climate change. And few people have played more of a role in addressing these issues than current Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Steven has helped us to speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy. He’s given more of our brightest young scientists the opportunity to pursue the ideas that will shape our future. So I could not be more grateful to Steve for the incredible contribution that he’s made to this country.”