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    Will Prof. Ernie Moniz Be A Good Energy Secretary?
    By Hank Campbell | March 7th 2013 03:30 AM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    President Obama may have a thing for northeast academics but he at least stepped out of Harvard and Yale this time, tapping MIT Professor Ernie Moniz Monday to run the Department of Energy. Moniz, a theoretical physicist and simulation expert, was in politics during the Clinton years, as Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy from 1995 to 1997 and Under Secretary of the Department of Energy from 1997 until January 2001. 

    Unlike his predecessor, Dr. Steven Chu, Moniz is well-seasoned in the ways of Washington, D.C. and he was rumored to be the front runner for the last month.  His nomination is a disappointment for people who had hoped a dark horse candidate (actual experience in energy) would be chosen during a time of budget cuts but Greentech Media notes that science pundit (and former student of Moniz) Joe Romm believes that practical people are overrated in government jobs anyway. That keen understanding of reality is why Joe Romm writes for Think Progress.

    Moniz is the safest of safe picks but environnmentalists are making a perfunctory objection, because he doesn't hate natural gas. Yet Moniz came of age when environmentalists still loved natural gas (which is to say, before it became popular and actually reduced energy CO2 emissions back to early 1990s levels, like we all wanted and exists now) - even Joe Romm hasn't found a way to hate natural gas yet.  If activists knew anything more than how to create fear and doubt about science, they would know that the Department of Energy has no say on fracking anyway.  For that, they will need to have their well-paid lobbyists bugging Gina McCarthy, former commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, who has been nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. She'll be a lot more receptive to them, since no science is required at the EPA; she loves regulations and hates business. She should do well.

    The big problem activists have with Moniz, as tepid as it is, is not his support of natural gas, it is really that the MIT Energy Initiative didn't vilify energy corporations, it worked with them - and that is not to be allowed in Anti-Science Land. 

    Will this mean smarter science policy rather than just hanging out at the Office of Renewable Energy and throwing checks at solar power corporations, like we had the last four years?  Here's hoping. 

    Comments

    Johannes Koelman
    Hark -- his name is Moniz, not Moriz...
    Hank
    Thanks, I didn't include 'Chu' is harder to misspell in the pro's and con's.
    In order to select a good leader, you must first consider what the organization does.

    Eisenhower posed the problem: Mankind will either learn to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, or it will annihilate us. He then created the Atomic Energy Commission, AEC, to separate authority between bomb makers / owners and the DoD warriors. AEC found it impossible to promote and regulate peaceful atomic power, so they split into nuclear hawks, the DoE, and nuclear chickens, the NRC. Today, DoE has thousands of gray haired experts in making H bombs, but have a boss, President Obama, who hates what they do, make and keep bombs that work. Since no government employee can be laid off, these experts started playing with civilian power plants. Their big opus, the Yucca Mountain repository for civilian spent fuel, was to open by Jan 1, 1998. It is built but empty, abandoned, after tens of billions of waste and generations of wasted expertise. There are thousands of NRC employees who were hired, worked a career, retired and died, without accomplishing any thing of value. They overviewed non existent power plants.. I once went to their office mid week mid morning, for a meeting after 2" of snow fell and a "liberal leave" policy was declared. The eight story office building was empty and dark; no body came to work. Apparently they overview in bed.

    A world renown scientist may not be the best choice for an overviewer's boss. A drill Sargent may be better.

    DoE should ensure that the bombs go off went we want them to explode, but at no other time. We have had an energy crisis since the first day DoE was created. The bombless fraction of the organization should be terminated. NRC has been led by people who hate nuclear power plants; it is difficult to accomplish much. There are many fine talented people in these organizations but they have chronically bad leadership, no direction.

    I have always been impressed that the Roman Emperor Caligua made his horse Incitatus a member of the Roman senate. Rome went out of business. Dr. Moniz may not be the worst choice for leader, but he must do better. Today, North Korea threatened to "..exercise the right to a preemptive nuclear attack ... " against the US. We are losing Eisenhower's conundrum, atoms for war, not peace.