Dr. Ernest Moniz, President Obama’s nominee for the next Secretary of Energy, appears poised for easy confirmation after responding to questions from the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee on April 9. His remarks indicated support for, among other things, small modular reactors, carbon capture technology research, and moving forward with the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.
Last month, when President Obama nominated Moniz, he noted that the MIT professor knew the department, having served as undersecretary of the Department of Energy between 1997 and 2001, and from 1995 and 1997. That familiarity with the DOE—and Washington politics—seems to be smoothing his way toward confirmation.
In his opening statement to the Senate committee at the hearing, Moniz began by summarizing his background and then expressing his support for the importance of the DOE as a funder of basic research. He then turned to his interest in and support for a “low-carbon economy” and the president’s “all of the above” energy strategy, including coal: “The need to mitigate climate change risks is emphatically supported by the science and by many military and religious leaders as well as the engaged scientific community. DOE should continue to support a robust R&D portfolio of low-carbon options: efficiency, renewables, nuclear, carbon capture and sequestration, energy storage. In addition, a 21st century electricity delivery system, including cybersecurity and a high degree of resilience to disruptions, is vital and deserves increased attention in the next years.”
During the hearing, both Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) raised the issue of U.S. natural gas reserves and whether to consider gas exports. Moniz was somewhat noncommittal in what he thought of liquefied natural gas exports, saying that any decisions would have to be made based on “strong analysis grounded in the best data.” To Wyden’s question about fracking, Moniz noted that public confidence was an issue to be addressed, that new data is needed on methane emissions, and that the DOE, Environmental Protection Agency, and industry should be working together on gathering and evaluating that data.
Several senators asked about nuclear waste–related issues, and Moniz, while remaining noncommittal on specifics, said he supported the approach recommended last January in the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC). Moniz was a member of that commission.
Murkowski’s opening remarks noted that both former Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), who chaired the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee before retiring this year, and Retired Air Force General Brent Scowcroft, who served with Moniz on the BRC, were on hand “to vouch for” Dr. Moniz. “You may prove to be the rare nominee who gathers wide bipartisan acclaim,” she said.
This story was originally published Apr. 10.
Sources: POWERnews, U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources
—Gail Reitenbach, PhD, Managing Editor (@POWERmagazine, @GailReit)