Monday, March 4, 2013

Does New Energy Secretary Get Shale Gas?

President Obama today nominated two people for cabinet positions that will have a significant impact on the energy industry.  He nominated MIT physicist Ernest Moniz to head the Department of Energy and Gina McCarthy to head the EPA.

From all indications, Ernest Moniz has a long-term view of energy that is heavy on solar and renewables but a short-term realistic approach to what fuels us now, specifically fossil fuels and nuclear.  He has been a proponent of the "natural gas as a bridge fuel" argument and has shepherded research at MIT that was favorable towards shale gas and fracking.  Ultimately, his position on fracking matters little given that the DOE has no real control over the process, but it is good for the natural gas industry to have a sympathetic ear at the top.

Gina McCarthy is described as a numbers-driven, pragmatic leader, which should serve her well in coming years.  The EPA has taken a bold approach to reducing pollution, especially from coal-fired power plants, but the question of limiting carbon emissions looms.  Particulate pollution is a relatively easy target - the fight from the coal and utility industries notwithstanding - but limiting carbon will prove a tougher challenge.  Even if she doesn't take on the carbon question, there are still many minefields on the horizon.

On the whole, I like idealistic but pragmatic people in positions of power, and these two picks seem to fit the bill.

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