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Moniz leads MIT’s Energy Initiative, serves on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and has served on corporate boards in the electric utility, natural-gas and oil industries. He is an advocate of nuclear power and served on an Obama-appointed panel to draw up recommendations for the long-term, safe disposal of radioactive waste. He served as an Energy Department undersecretary during the Clinton administration.
Moniz’s position supporting hydraulic fracturing has already drawn opposition from some environmental groups that oppose its expansion. But many mainstream environmental and energy groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund, the Alliance to Save Energy and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions said Moniz’s experience and knowledge in all energy fields will help frame the debate over fracking and other energy issues.
“Dr. Moniz has repeatedly observed that just because the environmental challenges of shale gas are manageable — that does not mean that they are yet managed,” said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp. “As there is work that remains to be done to ensure the safety of communities living around oil and gas development, and to address the air pollution issues that go beyond the local neighbors, his perspective will be important in the national conversation.”
Moniz has spoken so many times about so many energy topics that those looking to oppose his nomination will have plenty of fodder. In just one World Affairs Council appearance last year on energy, Moniz said he believed technologies such as solar power and batteries are the future for the electric sector, but those technologies are a decade away from being viable.
Until then, he said, natural gas can be a bridge fuel as long as there’s an end in sight. “I would argue it’s [natural gas] buying us time as long as it displaces coal. But buying time doesn’t matter if you don’t use the time,” he said.
Moniz also said nuclear power would have a place in the portfolio as long as the four new reactors being built in Georgia and South Carolina are finished on time and on budget. However, he’s not optimistic for the future of carbon capture and sequestration unless there’s a new, more cost-effective technology that becomes available.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly characterized the position of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp on the Moniz nomination.