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Drilling Deeper: The Wealth of Business Connections for Obama's Energy Pick

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: Dr Moniz, DOE, energy industry, BP, GE, USEC, conflict of interests, clean energy, environment, fracking, nuclear power, MIT, Sec Chu )

- 1918 days ago -
Here's what we know about Moniz's recent involvement with the energy industry: He was on BP's Technology Advisory Council between 2005 and 2011.. As part of the nomination process, Moniz has to fill out a financial disclosure that will become public,>>

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Angelika R (143)
Wednesday March 20, 2013, 5:47 pm
When President Obama nominated Ernest Moniz to be energy secretary earlier this month, he hailed the nuclear physicist as a “brilliant scientist” who, among his many talents, had effectively brought together “prominent thinkers and energy companies” in the continuing effort to figure out a safe and economically sound energy future for the country.

Indeed, Moniz’s collaborative work – best captured in the industry-backed research program he oversaw at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology – is well known. So, too, is his support for Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy – one that embraces, fossil fuels, nuclear, and renewable energy sources.

But beyond his job in academia, Moniz has also spent the last decade serving on a range of boards and advisory councils for energy industry heavyweights, including some that do business with the Department of Energy. That includes a six-year paid stint on BP’s Technology Advisory Council as well as similar positions at a uranium enrichment company and a pair of energy investment firms.

Such industry ties aren’t uncommon for cabinet nominees, and Obama specifically praised Moniz for understanding both environmental and economic issues.

Still, Moniz’s work for energy companies since he served in President Clinton’s Energy Department has irked some environmentalists.

“His connections to the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries threaten to undermine the focus we need to see on renewables and energy efficiency,” said Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.

Slocum pointed out that Moniz, if confirmed, will set research and investment priorities, including at the department’s network of national laboratories.

The Energy Department hands out billions of dollars in contracts and loan guarantees as it pushes energy research and development and administers the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile and cleanup efforts. (On fracking, probably the highest-profile energy issue of the moment, the Environmental Protection Agency has jurisdiction.)

Reaction to Moniz’s nomination has been mixed among environmental groups, ranging from support (Natural Resources Defense Council) to concerned acceptance (Sierra Club) to outright opposition (Food and Water Watch).

What criticism there has been has focused on his support for nuclear power and for natural gas extracted through fracking as a “bridge fuel” to transition away from coal.

Here’s what we know about Moniz’s recent involvement with the energy industry:

He was on BP’s Technology Advisory Council between 2005 and 2011, a position for which he received a stipend, according to BP. Spokesman Matt Hartwig said the company does not disclose details of such payments. (A 2012 BP financial report disclosed that one council member received about $6,200.) The council “provides feedback and advice to BP’s executive management as to the company’s approach to research and technology,” according to the company. BP has also provided $50 million in funding to Moniz’s MIT Energy Initiative. Moniz talked about that relationship while delivering a warm introduction before a 2009 speech at MIT by BP’s then-CEO Tony Hayward.
From 2002 to 2004, Moniz sat on the strategic advisory council of USEC, a public company that provides enriched uranium to nuclear power plants. A company spokesman said Moniz was paid for his role on the nine-member council, but declined to say how much. USEC, which has been seeking a $2 billion loan guarantee from the Energy Department for a centrifuge plant in Ohio, has applauded Moniz’s nomination.
He's on the board of ICF International, a Fairfax, Virginia-based company which does energy and environmental consulting. It has received Energy Department contracts as part of what one executive called a “longstanding relationship with the Department of Energy.” As a board member, Moniz got $158,000 in cash and stock in 2011, according to the company’s most recent annual report.
He is on the strategic advisory council of NGP Energy Technology Partners, a private equity firm that invests in both alternative energy and fossil fuel companies. The Washington, D.C.-based firm declined to comment.
He is on the board of advisers of another private equity firm, the Angeleno Group,which says it provides “growth capital for next generation clean energy and natural resources companies.” The Los Angeles-based firm didn’t respond to requests for comment.
He is a trustee of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC), a Saudi Aramco-backed nonprofit organization. The organization did not respond to requests for comment.
He was on the board of directors of the Electric Power Research Institute from 2007 to 2011, following a stint on the group’s advisory council that began in 2002. A nonprofit utility consortium, the organization does research for the industry with an annual budget of over $300 million. The group paid Moniz $8,000 between 2009 and 2011, according to its most recent tax returns.
Since 2006, Moniz has been on the board of General Electric’s “ecomagination” advisory board which advises the company on “critical environmental and business issues.” The company did not respond to inquiries about compensation.

A spokesperson for the MIT Energy Initiative said Moniz is not giving interviews, and the White House didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Moniz’s nomination has not encountered resistance from the Senate, where the Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Moniz April 9.

As part of the nomination process, Moniz has to fill out a financial disclosure that will become public, along with an ethics agreement on how he will avoid any conflicts of interest.

If confirmed Moniz won’t be the first energy secretary who has been close to industry.

Steven Chu, the outgoing energy secretary, received scrutiny over his ties to BP. The company had chosen the lab Chu headed at the University of California, Berkeley, to lead a $500 million energy research project. BP’s chief scientist at the time of the grant, Steven Koonin, became Chu’s undersecretary for science.

When the Energy Department became involved in the government’s response to the 2010 Gulf oil spill, Koonin recused himself. Critics who thought the administration was too soft on the company pointed to Chu’s ties to BP. But no evidence emerged that Chu had played any role going to bat for BP within the administration.


David C (129)
Wednesday March 20, 2013, 5:54 pm

Angelika R (143)
Wednesday March 20, 2013, 6:10 pm
Because of numerous links in article I suggest you visit site.

JL A (281)
Wednesday March 20, 2013, 7:48 pm
Scrutiny appears to be in order.

Tamara Hayes (185)
Wednesday March 20, 2013, 8:32 pm
Just by looks alone I don't trust him! What is he smiling so cheeky for hmm.. Thanks Angie

Angelika R (143)
Wednesday March 20, 2013, 11:42 pm
Tamara- maybe he's smiling so "cheeky" because he'll frakk and nuke the heck out of you all, you just don't know it yet..?

Süheyla C (234)
Thursday March 21, 2013, 2:53 am

Gloria picchetti (304)
Thursday March 21, 2013, 7:31 am
It's interesting but too early to pass judgement.

Past Member (0)
Thursday March 21, 2013, 7:40 am

. (0)
Thursday March 21, 2013, 10:20 am
I find it quite interesting when we note how many of them have connections or have worked directly for the Energy industry or one of the "foundations". You don't suppose there's a case for grand collusion do you?

Angelika R (143)
Thursday March 21, 2013, 12:29 pm
Michael, smart folks of course will always avoid collusions, at least try. ;)
It might be even more interesting to see who IS/ was NOT connected or inflicted in corporations...?

Past Member (0)
Thursday March 21, 2013, 12:56 pm
Another corporate insider. Is anyone really surprised?

Angelika R (143)
Thursday March 21, 2013, 1:12 pm
NO. Robert, guess not..and those who are better wake up! I am curious though, if there will be any replies of those who declined to comment upon request so far..

Winnie Adams (179)
Thursday March 21, 2013, 1:59 pm

Lois Jordan (63)
Thursday March 21, 2013, 4:11 pm
Noted. Thanks, Angelika. Yes, I noticed the "declined to comment" which causes immediate suspicion on top of the rest of it. His appointment doesn't make me happy and I agree with the questions on collusion....absolutely disgraceful. Is there no shame left? Money trumps health. Money trumps massive protests. Money trumps the wishes of taxpaying constituents. But, we will not be silent and will continue to gather against dirty energy. Count me among those who won't back down. Guess we'll be finding out the truth soon.

Birgit W (160)
Thursday March 21, 2013, 4:14 pm

Sandra ;atterson (59)
Thursday March 21, 2013, 7:21 pm
noted.thank you

tiffany t (142)
Thursday March 21, 2013, 9:07 pm
he looks shady

Lloyd H (46)
Friday March 22, 2013, 7:43 am
I can not decide whether to be sad or mad about this article and some of the responses.
First to Tamara and Tiffany, perhaps you would prefer some one with the boy next door good looks of an Eric Cantor or Paul Ryan, after all we know what kind of dark evil their appearances hide.
The thing that grabbed me first in the article, was the bald faced lie that Fracking falls under the jurisdiction of the EPA, it does not. Any one pretending to be an expert in the energy field should know that by law, thanks to Cheney and Bush, the EPA and all other Federal Agencies are blocked from regulating Fracking, they are not even allowed to require the Fracking Companies to disclose just what is in the Fracking liquids used.
Then there is the pure insinuation garbage that just because 'some one' on an advisory board is paid X dollars by a company since Moniz is on the same board that is what he was paid. Any corporation is going to get the best in the field that they can for advice. The massive funding or outright purchasing of various University Departments by Corporations , including ownership of all discoveries by said Departments, has been standard practice for decades. After all the Government is sure as hell not funding much any more.
Now if you want squeaky clean nominations for Cabinet posts you had better be willing to have a Cabinet composed with bottom of the barrel qualifications. University Professors/scientists make their living and fund their research through mainly corporate grants and sitting on advisory boards. To be honest with the exception of meteorology and medicine, if professor/scientists want good funding from the Government they had better be good with military applications, anything else is a side benefit like GPS and cell phones. And for all of the supposedly shady associations via boards etc., I see nothing to indicate anything shady that resulted from his participation. In short for a all of the innuendo I see nothing that even remotely resembles a smoking gun.
And perhaps, just perhaps, giving a verdict on Moniz could wait until after the evidence is actually presented. You know the evidently inconsequential things like his financial disclosure forms, and at least some of the questioning and testimony before the US Senate, because as you should all know by now if Obama nominate him the Repugs will do a complete vivisection for political points if nothing else.
Personally I will wait to see the evidence before I make a judgment. I know silly old fashioned me but presumption of innocence still comes to mind first.

Angelika R (143)
Friday March 22, 2013, 10:33 am
Excellent comment here, thanks so much Lloyd for clearing up some things here. Call it old fashioned, certainly NOT silly, I can only agree with "presumption of innocence still comes to mind first" ("In dubio pro reo")

Yes, we'll have to wait for further results, IF the media will give us facts. But one fact seems to be indisputable: Dr Moniz is certainly not a champion of green, clean, renewable energy and we can only hope that his mindmap of "bridge technologies" is really such and not just a word or some disguise.

Helen Porter (39)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 1:18 am
This guy brings to mind a poem we had in high school:

I do not love thee, Dr. Fell.
The reason why I cannot tell
but this alone I know full well,
I do not love thee Dr. Fell

Angelika R (143)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 2:08 am
Very appropriate, thanks Zee!
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