Documents made public Friday show that Obama’s pick for Energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, was a consultant for BP from 2005 to 2012, and has numerous other ties to the oil and gas industry. The president’s choice has environmentalists expressing concern, particularly over his support for natural gas (hydraulic fracturing) and nuclear energy, and his involvement in the industry that he will be responsible for regulating.
Moniz, who has been the suspected pick to replace Steven Chu, is a physicist with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Director of the MIT Energy Initiative. Moniz was the Chair for an interdisciplinary MIT study on “The Future of Natural Gas.” In their report, released in June 2011, the group concludes that natural gas is a resource “that fundamentally enhances the nation’s long-term gas supply outlook,” and that its use “allows time for the continued development of more cost-effective low or zero carbon energy technology for the longer term.”
That the report in effect touted hydraulic fracturing (fracking) as a viable, “lowest-cost” energy solution that can be used to bide time until some real effort is invested in renewable, sustainable technologies has many environmentalists up in arms. The dangers of fracking, and the push to address climate change and reduce carbon emissions are issues that could easily be overshadowed by the focus on natural gas – a resource obtained by a process that many environmentalists vehemently oppose.
For Moniz, breaking ties with the oil and gas industry will likely be the most difficult part of taking on the position. In a letter to the Department of Energy’s Ethics Official, he laid out a number of changes he would make in order to avoid a conflict of interest. He will have to resign from positions in a number of industry companies including, ICF International, Inc. (IFC), American Science & Engineering, Inc. (AS&E), Angeleno Group, LLC, General Electric Company, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, and NGP Energy Technology Partners, as well as divest himself of stock from these and other companies.
To dig deeper into Moniz’s industry links, read this recent report by ProPublica.
Alisha Mims is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.