Ernest Moniz, Obama's energy secretary nominee, went through a three-hour bipartisan love-fest in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday. According to the New York Times, Moniz "faced no opposition." Moniz could be the rare nominee with bipartisan support.
Here's the video of the confirmation hearings on C-SPAN:
Moniz, an MIT nuclear physicist, looks to replace Steven Chu, another physicist who led the DOE during a boom time for government clean energy investments. Moniz has experience in D.C. and served as undersecretary of energy in the Clinton administration.
He supports research to lower the cost of renewables and subscribes to the "all-of-the-above" Obama energy doctrine.
Displaying his geek credentials, he introduced his wife Naomi "as his wife of 39.83 years," during the hearing introductions.
Moniz acknowledged the evidence for global warming and said we need to pick up the pace on "low-carbon options."
As nuclear steward, Moniz took some questions about the state of Washington's Hanford nuclear site and the conversion of plutonium for civilian reactor usage, as well as about Nevada's Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site. Moniz is a supporter of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs).
Moniz also sees carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) as the savior of the coal industry. In addition, the hearing touched on energy efficiency, cybersecurity, rate structures, the role of the national labs, financing renewables through REITs and MLPs, and smart grid.
Moniz said he would furnish a timeline for his energy storage plans. Some see energy storage as the missing link to makingsolarand wind power more consistent and predictable. It is unclear what the DOE can actually do to advance the energy storage cause, other than to continue funding basic research (see this ARRA energy storage project overview for more details). Those efforts might help lower the price of energy storage. But many of the obstacles to faster adoption of energy storage are regulatory- and policy-based. FERC and the PUCs might be more important to energy storage than the DOE.
In what might be one of the bigger energy issues over the next decade, Moniz carefully responded to questions about natural gas exports and the applications before the DOE. He said that applications for natural gas export would be reviewed on an application-by-application basis. Export of natural gas can create jobs, but might also raise U.S. natural gas prices.
Politico notes, "[A]way from the cozy atmosphere on the Hill, Moniz has come under fire from progressive groups for his financial ties to the oil and natural gas industry. The MIT Energy Initiative, which Moniz heads, is funded in part by BP, Saudi Aramco and Shell, and he has disclosed substantial personal financial holdings and paid roles with a broad range of energy companies."