MIT Professor new Secretary of Energy

Nieuws | de redactie
4 maart 2013 | President Obama will appoint Ernest Moniz as the next Secretary of Energy. This MIT professor will replace that other world-class scientist, Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu. Moniz returns to a key level in energy-policy after being Clinton’s Undersecretary of Energy during his second term.

Moniz can be seen as a surprise, many expected that the scientist Chu would be replaced by a more political heavyweight. Obama has chosen an expert with political experience to give shape to his energy policy. In 1997 Moniz joined the Clinton administration as Undersecretary of Energy. He returned after his service in the administration to his Alma Mater, to help MIT president Susan Hockfield to make energy research one of MIT’s principal endeavors. Later he became director of the MIT Energy Initiative.

Road to a “low-carbon future” controversial

During his first term in government Moniz had to dedicate a large portion of his time to leaking nuclear waste, but he is still an advocate for nuclear energy. “Washington should stick to its plan of offering limited assistance for building several new nuclear reactors in this decade.” Moniz underlines the importance of new energy technologies as well.

During the next four years the transition to a low-carbon future might, next to energy-independence, become one of his key policies. Natural gas could be a bridge to this low-carbon future and will likely be phased out in the future in favor of zero-emission options. Moniz stated: “For the next several decades, however, natural gas will play a crucial role in enabling very substantial reductions in carbon emissions.”

This view created a controversy among scientists. In a scientific report, Cornell professor of ecology Robert Howarth stated that the replacement of coal by gas would have no climate benefits. This is due to the amount of methane leaked into the atmosphere during the production of natural gas. Experts from MIT criticized Howarth’s report. According to Howarth, the MIT energy institute was “way too cozy with industry, and I think that’s affected their scholarship, and I’m worried about what that would mean.”

R&D over carbon reduction

Jigar Shah, former chief executive at a solar installation firm wrote: “With the likely nomination of Ernest Moniz as the Secretary of Energy, President Obama has chosen invention over deployment — and R&D over job creation and carbon reduction.”

“Outside maybe Secretary Chu, probably nobody who knows more about various aspects of energy than Ernie does. He is a policy guy,” said Charles Ebinger, an energy security expert at the Brookings Institution to the Washington Post. “He might be a little too academic for what we need as energy secretary right now. If the president really decided to really embrace the unconventional oil and gas revolution, he will need someone who can go out and sell this to the American people.”

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