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Monday, 08 April 2013 10:58

MIT Professor Frackenstein Moniz, Oil and Gas Industry Favorite, to Become Secretary of DOE. America Gets Fracked by White House.

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frack324567When it comes to US energy policy, President Obama's actions toward changing our basic reliance on fossil fuels is so incremental, you can hardly notice it is moving forward.

Yes, one came blame the Republicans for continuing an earth-destroying dependency on fossil fuel, but you get the feeling Obama is not pushing much beyond lip service to create a systemic change in US energy policy.

That is why there is no reason to be surprised that President Obama is highly likely to approve the last segments of the Keystone XL Pipeline, as BuzzFlash at Truthout has predicted: "Obama Hints at Approval of Keystone XL Pipeline at SF Fundraiser, Blames Middle Class Priorities."

That is also why it should be no surprise that Ernest Moniz will likely be approved by a wide margin in the Senate, after expected committee approval on Tuesday to become secretary of the Department of Energy. Moniz's funding at MIT is so lubed up with the oil and gas industry, you might find a fracking site in his lab. As the website dcbureau.org reported:

Professor [and] nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, is director of the MIT Energy Initiative, a research arm that has received more than $125 million in pledges from the oil and gas industry since 2006, according to the Public Accountability Initiative, a non-profit that blew the whistle on UBuffalo.

The four “founding members” of MITEI — BP, Shell, Italy’s ENI and Saudi Aramco — each agreed to pay $25 million over five years for the right to help manage research projects, maintain an office at MITEI headquarters and “place a researcher in a participating MIT faculty member’s lab,” according to the MITEI website. Ten “sustaining members” commit $5 million each for fewer rights, but still get seats on MITEI’s executive committee and governing board.

A host of others energy interests, including the Clean Skies Foundation, have participated as well, funding and shaping MIT research.

Clean Skies was founded and chaired by Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corp., the nation’s No. 2 gas producer. At the time Clean Skies officials called on MIT with a research idea, Chesapeake had placed a large bet on high-volume hydraulic fracturing of shale formations, or fracking, by aggressively leasing land in shale regions.

It turns out that Moniz's MITEI leans a bit toward fracking, considering all the oil and gas money helping to run his program at MIT:

The research produced by the MIT-Clean Skies collaboration was a May 2011 report called “The Future of Natural Gas.” In its acknowledgements, the Moniz team wrote: “Discussions with the (Clean Skies) Foundation led to the conclusion that an integrative study on the future of natural gas in a carbon-constrained world could contribute to the energy debate in an important way, and the Foundation stepped forward as the major sponsor.”

Other acknowledged major funders of the study included the Hess Corp., Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos of Colombia, the Gas Technology Institute and Exelon.

“The Future of Natural Gas” was a magnum opus that crowned natural gas as the “bridge to a low-carbon future.” It cited vast new supplies of cheap, clean-burning gas from shale drilling and recommended a switch from coal to natural gas in U.S. electric power generation, industry and transportation….

MIT’s report touted shale gas as a huge economic opportunity and argued that switching to it for electric power generation in particular would help slow global warming.

Furthermore, industry public relations efforts associated with the MIT report lacerated the reputations of two Cornell professors who dared to challenge it.  If Moniz came to their defense to engage in academic debate, please e-mail any evidence that he did so.

The Huffington Post elaborated on Professor Frackenstein's affinity to the fossil fuel industry (although he is, like Obama, on record of being in favor of a balanced US energy approach, whatever that is, and his program looks at alternative energy approaches).:

An influential MIT study that suggested fracking could provide a "bridge to a low-carbon future" and would pose only "manageable" environmental issues lacked disclosure that it's lead author -- and now energy department nominee -- Ernest Moniz had ties to the natural gas industry, according to a watchdog group.

In their report released on Wednesday, the Public Accountability Initiative said that Moniz, director of the Energy Initiative at MIT, had joined the board of ICF, a consulting firm with oil and gas ties, just three days prior to the release of the report. They add that Moniz has since collected over $300,000 from ICF.

The nonprofit group, which has been critical of the gas industry and fracking, goes on to suggest other timely conflicts of interest among authors of the study. One co-author had joined the gas company, Talisman Energy, prior to release of the study; another was on the board of a liquid natural gas (LNG) company that would receive the U.S.'s only LNG export permit shortly after the study came out.

"The public should have been informed that MIT's natural gas study was written by representatives of the oil and gas industry," Kevin Connor, director of the Public Accountability Initiative, said in a statement. "Is MIT an independent research university or an oil and gas industry mouthpiece?"

On Tuesday, Ron Wyden is expected to ask Moniz about his lack of concern about the perils of the nuclear power industry:

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) plans to question Moniz on the polluted Hanford nuclear site in Washington State, where waste tanks may be leaking 1,000 gallons of waste per year, reported The Hill. Moniz wrote in November 2011 that "it would be a mistake" to let "Fukushima cause governments to abandon nuclear power and its benefits."

But the conventional wisdom in DC is that Moniz will easily pass out of committee and be confirmed by the Senate.  The corporate mainstream media has roundly ignored or barely mentioned Moniz's connections with the fossil fuel industry.

After all, just looking at the companies who are his founding advisors for MITEI (see above) indicates that the fossil fuel lobbyists will give the green light to senators of both parties to confirm Moniz.  

As with Obama's policy of no major action toward preventing irreversible Climate Change, Moniz will become Secretary of the Department of Energy at a time when the earth's environmental deterioration may outpace his and Obama's leisurely approach to implementing alternative energy and standing up to the fossil fuel industry.

(Photo: Steve Harbula)