Ernest Moniz

Ernest Moniz

Credentials

  • Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics, Stanford University 1“Dr. Ernest Moniz, Former Secretary of Energy,” U.S. Department of Energy. Archive URL: http://archive.today/UF9nY
  • B.S. summa cum laude in Physics, Boston College 2“Dr. Ernest Moniz, Former Secretary of Energy,” U.S. Department of Energy. Archive URL: http://archive.today/UF9nY

Background

Ernest (“Ernie”) J. Moniz is a nuclear physicist who served as the second United States Secretary of Energy under the Obama administration, from 2013 to January 2017.3“Ernest J. Moniz” (PDF), Energy Futures Initiative, August 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

After leaving government in 2017, Moniz founded the non-profit Energy Futures Initiative, and energy and climate think tank based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to its website, the group “promotes science-based solutions to accelerate the energy transition.”4 “Energy Futures Initiative: Frequently Asked Questions,” Archived May 17, 2022. Archive URL: http://archive.today/esW73 The group’s board includes both environmentalists and individuals linked to the fossil fuel industry, according to information compiled by the LittleSis project.5 “Energy Futures Initiative,” Little Sis. Archive URL: http://archive.today/7ZcQY

As an Obama administration nominee, Moniz faced criticism6Energy Nominee Ernest Moniz Criticized for Backing Fracking & Nuclear Power; Ties to BP, GE, Saudis,” Democracy Now, March 23, 2013. Archived September 8. 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/pqmMR for his past ties to the oil, gas, and nuclear industries7Energy secretary nominee Ernest Moniz has deep ties to oil, gas, and nuclear industries,” Grist, March 27, 2013. Archived September 8, 2021. Archive URL:https://archive.ph/ZbAeN. These included positions on BP and General Electric advisory boards, and a role as a trustee of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, a nonprofit organization backed by Saudi Aramco.

Moniz reportedly advised Joe Biden’s presidential campaign regarding climate policy.8Valerie Volcovici. “EXCLUSIVE-Presidential hopeful Biden looking for ‘middle ground’ climate policy,” Reuters, May 10, 2019. Archived September 7, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/rDLAn

He went on to serve on the boards of private and public companies in the security and energy sectors including Southern Company. He also served on BP’s Technology Advisory council from 2005 to 2011.9Kate Aronoff. “The Biden Adviser Who Gives Climate Activists Nightmares,” The New Republic, September 15, 2020. Archived September 7, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/hp3ka

Before becoming Secretary of Energy, Moniz had been a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1973. He is the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems emeritus. He was founding director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI). Moniz had also served as DOE Under Secretary from 1997 until January 2001, and as Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy from 1995 to 1997.10Ernest J. Moniz,” MIT. Archived September 7, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/TkZ5S

As noted by The Guardian in an article describing Moniz as a potential pick for the Biden administration, in addition to being on the board of Southern Company, Moniz’s firm Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) had conducted research paid for by Southern California Gas (SoCalGas). A state consumer advocacy group has since argued SoCalGas should be fined for using customer money to oppose efficiency standards.11Emily Holden. “Why is Joe Biden considering this man to help fight the climate crisis?The Guardian, November 23, 2020. Archived September 8, 2021. Archive URL:https://archive.ph/evMBB

Stance on Climate Change

November 20, 2019

“The threats posed by climate change to the world, our nation, and our way of life present an unprecedented and urgent challenge. The evolving climate science indicates the need to move toward a more stringent temperature limit of 1.5°C rather than 2°C,” Moniz said in written testimony before the U.S. House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee on the Role of the U.S. Department of Energy in Addressing Climate Change.12Statement of the Honorable Ernest J. Moniz Secretary of Energy (2013-2017) Founder and CEO Energy Futures Initiative, Inc,” Energy Futures Initiative, November 20, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Key Quotes

June 16, 2021

Moniz discussed his view of the role of oil and gas companies in an energy transition in an interview with Citizens Energy Congress:13Sarmad Kghan. “US energy companies to face higher scrutiny and climate-risk disclosure,” The National, June 16, 2021. Archived September 7, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/tq5mW

“In the US, and I’ve said that before, the pace needs to be picked up dramatically and frankly, what happened with ExxonMobil is a harbinger of things to come,” Moniz said.

“One should not lose sight of the fact that the ESG [environment, social and governance standards] movement among the major investors and the fact that financial and regulatory instruments of the government and Biden administration are clearly going to force much more dramatic climate risk disclosures.”

September 11, 2020

When Axios‘ Amy Harder brought up calls by environmental activists for Joe Biden not to take advice from officials who, like Moniz, had ties to the fossil fuel industry, Moniz responded about his role on the board of Southern Company:14Obama energy secretary on blackouts, campaign scrutiny,” Axios, September 11, 2020. Archived September 3, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/x6OnT

“I do not agree with the characterization of the Southern Company as a fossil fuel company,” Moniz said. “It’s an electricity utility. It also is a natural gas supplier at a retail level. But that’s [like] the statement that anybody who drives an internal combustion car is a fossil fuel company because they use them. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it.”

[…]

“If I am an oil and gas company, I would know there are many parts of a low-carbon economy that calls for [my] skill set and capabilities,” he said. “Oil and gas companies can accelerate to that future and be a significant contributor to the low-carbon economy.”

To reach net zero economy by the middle of this century, “we also need a decarbonised electricity sector and we are also going to need a fuel to complement electricity”, he said, pointing to Hydrogen as an option.

January 6, 2016

Introducing the CEO of BP at an MIT Energy Initiative event, Moniz detailed the close relationship between his MIT group and the oil giant:15Facing the harsh realities,” YouTube video uploaded by user “MIT Energy Initiative.” Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

Ernest Moniz: [00:01:52] “We are very pleased to have BP here as a member of the energy initiative, in fact, the founding member of the MIT Energy Initiative. And in fact, as President Hockfield said just a few minutes ago to Tony that that confidence shown in where we were going here at MIT in terms of our focus on energy, environment was very, very important and we really appreciate that early support and the continuing relationship.

“In fact, many of you may know that besides the Energy Initiative, BP has a major presence in terms of a Projects Academy and Operations Academy with the Sloan School Engineering. And in fact, I just heard again in the discussion a few minutes ago that three hundred of BP’s 500 senior executives have one way or another interacted with MIT. So it’s really quite a substantial relationship. Tony is also a member of our external advisory board for the for the energy initiative, and we certainly value his advice there.”

Later in the talk, responding to a question on fracking, BP CEO Tony Hayward commented:

Tony Hayward: [00:37:53] Well, I think, you know, this comes I think we can manage this in a way that has a very modest or low environmental footprint. The issue is, of course, the use of water and in some areas, we will have to understand the impacts on water where water is an issue.

Key Actions

May 2019

Moniz’s Energy Futures Initiative released a report on decarbonization in California16“OPTIONALITY, FLEXIBILITY & INNOVATION: Pathways for Deep Decarbonization in California” (PDF), Energy Futures Initiative, May 2019. that, as noted by The Guardian,17Emily Holden.”Why is Joe Biden considering this man to help fight the climate crisis?The Guardian, November 2020. Archived September 8, 2021. Archive URL:https://archive.ph/evMBB was sponsored by natural gas companies and related groups including the following:

  • Southern California Gas Company
  • San Diego Gas & Electric
  • Utility Workers Union
  • Gas Technology Institute
  • Independent Energy Producers Association
  • California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition
  • Renewable Natural Gas Coalition

March 2019

Moniz co-wrote an Op Ed with Andy Karsner, a former George W. Bush administration energy official, on a “Green Real Deal” to counter the Green New Deal.18What America needs is a ‘Green Real deal’: Obama/Bush energy policymakers say,” CNBC, March 11, 2019. Archived September 7, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/5C91h

“The need for urgency and the disparate impacts of inaction underscores the dangers of magical thinking at either extreme. Climate deniers, as well as those with demonstrably impractical, short-term, feel-good solutions are moving us sideways when forward motion is essential,” they wrote.

The op-ed emphasizes the role of natural gas in emissions reductions:

“Innovation that has dramatically reduced the cost of solar and wind energy is a big part of the story. But it is also a fact that much of the electricity decarbonization has taken because of the natural gas revolution that has reduced coal use. Furthermore, the ability of natural gas to respond to the variability of solar and wind is critical for maintaining a reliable and resilient system,” Moniz and Karsner wrote.

The article suggests solutions to reduce emissions include “looking hard at advanced nuclear technologies and the capture, storage and use of carbon dioxide, as well as renewables.” They add: “Indeed, this might eventually include direct carbon removal from the air, a prohibitively expensive proposition today in its very early stages of R&D.”

Moniz co-wrote an op-ed in March with a Bush administration official calling for a “Green Real Deal,” an alternative to the Green New Deal that calls for increased energy efficiency, nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage technology to drive down emissions alongside renewable energy.

2011

Moniz co-chaired a MIT study that painted a largely positive picture on the future of natural gas.19“The Future of Natural Gas: An Interdisciplinary MIT Study” (PDF), MIT Energy Initiative, 2011. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

As later noted at The Boston Globe, while Moniz was running the energy research center at MIT, he was also invested in groups associated with the oil and gas sectors. Disclosures showed his income had included a $75,000 in consulting fees from Riverstone Equity Holdings LP, a company with$2.5 billion invested in fossil fuel production and storage companies.

Moniz was also a board member and stock holder of ICF International, a company representing natural gas companies.20Bryan Bender. “MIT’s Ernest Moniz advised oil and gas investors,” Boston Globe, March 30, 2013. Archived September 7, 2021. Archive URL:https://archive.ph/6f3O3

“While the ties were reported internally to MIT at the time, they were not made public, including Moniz’s role as a new member of the board of directors of ICF International, a Virginia consulting company that represents natural gas companies, or his longstanding consultant position at Riverstone,” The Boston Globe reported.

In 2013, the Public Accountability Initiative released a report on the MIT study, describing it as “authored, funded, and released by oil and gas industry insiders.”21“Industry Partner or Industry Puppet?” (PDF), Public Accountability Initiative, March 2013. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“Key authors of the study, including Moniz himself, failed to disclose personal financial conflicts of interest in report materials or at events where the report was presented,” the Public Accountability Initiative report suggested, adding “Study chair Ernest Moniz took a lucrative position on the board of ICF International, a consulting firm with significant oil and gas ties, just prior to the release of the report.”

On July 19, 2011, Moniz testified before the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources regarding the MIT study on natural gas. According to his written testimony, Moniz described natural gas as a “bridge” fuel to ease off of coal power generation:22“Testimony of Ernest J. Moniz Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems Director, MIT Energy Initiative Massachusetts Institute of Technology Before the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resource” (PDF), Energy.Senate.Gov, July 19, 2011.

“In the U.S., a combination of demand reduction and displacement of coal-fired power by gas-fired generation is the lowest cost way to reduce CO2 emissions by up to50%. For more stringent CO2 emissions reductions, further de-carbonization of the energy sector will be required; but natural gas provides a cost-effective bridge to such a low-carbon future.” (Emphasis in original).

Affiliations

Energy Industry

Other

Financial Disclosures

A number of Moniz’s financial disclosures are publicly available. Below is a collection via DocumentCloud,

2013 Disclosure (also see additional 2013 disclosure) for nomination as Secretary at Department of Energy

Affiliations/Positions Held Outside Government

  • MIT — Salary ($104,446).
  • King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center — Member, advisory council and board of trustees (September 2009–)DD
  • Cyprus Research and Education Foundation — Trustee- (January 2006 – January 2012).
  • Nexant, Inc. — Member, board of directors (August 2002 – February 2011)
  • Electric Power Research Institute — Board member/advisor (March 2005 – August 2011).
  • Angeleno Group — Member, board of advisors (June 2004–)

Income/Payments

  • ICF International — Board fees ($90,000)
  • American Science & Engineering — Board fees ($38,000)
  • Riverstone Equity Parters, LP — Consulting fee ($75,000)*
  • Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA)/ IHS) — Speaking fee ($10,000)
  • General Electric – Ecomagination — Advisory board fee ($10,000)
  • BP, PLC — Consulting fee ($5,850)
  • Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei — Consulting ($13,022)
  • Schlumberger Research Center — Speaking fee ($5,000)

In a 2013 article discussing these early financial disclosures, The Boston Globe noted Riverstone Equity Holdings LP had $2.5 billion invested in fossil fuel production and storage companies in the US and abroad. ICF International, where Moniz was a board member and stock holder, also represents natural gas companies.39Bryan Bender. “MIT’s Ernest Moniz advised oil and gas investors,” Boston Globe, March 30, 2013. Archived September 7, 2021. Archive URL:https://archive.ph/6f3O3

Social Media

Publications

Sample Energy Futures Initiative Reports

  • The U.S. Nuclear Energy Enterprise: A Key National Security Enabler (August 2017)
  • Leveraging the DOE Loan Programs: Using $39 Billion in Existing Authority to Help Modernize
    the Nation’s Energy Infrastructure (March 2018)
  • The 2018 and 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Reports (March 2019 & June 2018), with the
    National Association of State Energy Officials
  • Promising Blockchain Applications for Energy: Separating the Signal from the Noise (July 2018)
  • Advancing Large Scale Carbon Management: Expansion of the 45Q Tax Credit (May 2018)
  • Investing in Natural Gas for Africans: Doing Good and Doing Well (November 2018)
  • Advancing the Landscape of Clean Energy Innovation (February 2019), with IHS Markit
  • More Funding Needed for Carbon Removal Technologies (April 2019), with the Bipartisan
    Policy Center
  • Optionality, Flexibility & Innovation: Pathways for Deep Decarbonization in California (May
    2019)
  • The Green Real Deal: A Framework for Achieving a Deeply Decarbonized Economy (August
    2019)
  • Clearing the Air: A Federal RD&D Initiative and Management Plan for Carbon Dioxide Removal
    Technologies (September 2019)

Other Resources

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