- - Friday, April 12, 2013

President Obama’s nomination of Ernest Moniz for secretary of energy seemed at first to offer some promise for the hapless department.

In the wake of Steven “Solyndra” Chu’s departure, Mr. Moniz’s nomination caused immediate worry among the radical green crowd for his support of nuclear power and the game-changing energy development of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. However, after watching Mr. Moniz at his April 9 confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, it’s clear that he is another automaton against fossil fuel.

Mr. Moniz started his testimony by stating that the need to mitigate climate change is “emphatically supported by the science.” Later, he added, “The scientific basis for warranting action [on global warming] is completely clear.” Even Committee member Al Franken, Minnesota Democrat, wouldn’t go that far. “Some of us know ,” he said before correcting himself in midsentence, “well, some of us believe” in global warming. Things went further downhill quickly after Mr. Moniz avowed adherence to Al Gore’s mantra of climate change.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, asked the nominee to commit to facilitating the export of Alaska’s abundant supplies of natural gas. He demurred by mentioning something about evaluating the possibility under a vague “public interest criterion” and even vaguer “cumulative impacts” assessment presumably a nod to global-warming alarmism.

Picking up on the shale-gas industry’s interest in the export of natural gas, Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, asked Mr. Moniz whether he would facilitate exports to NATO allies in order to reduce their dependence on gas tyrant Russia. Again, the nominee filibustered.

Sen. John Hoeven, North Dakota Republican, urged Mr. Moniz to support a states-first policy for hydraulic fracturing meaning states would be the prime regulators of the burgeoning industry. Mr. Moniz evaded the question by pleading that regulation is the bailiwick of the Environmental Protection Agency, not the Department of Energy.

An unexpected downer for America’s gas industry was Mr. Moniz’s statement that, in a “low-carbon economy,” it eventually will be necessary to capture and sequester carbon-dioxide emissions from burning natural gas.

This “carbon capture and sequestration” was a fiscal, physical and political impossibility when it was proposed for coal alone. Even if it could be accomplished physically, it would cost more than $1 trillion annually to drill the thousands of underground injection wells required, not to mention the extra 30 percent or so of energy production to do the necessary gas-to-liquid conversion. Of course, it can’t be done on any sort of large scale because it would take an area about the size of Maryland to store the emissions for a single 1,500-megawatt coal plant, of which there are more than 200 in the United States. Even more concerning is the risk of underground carbon dioxide exploding, causing death and destruction similar to that which occurred in Cameroon in 1986. The NIMBY crowd certainly would raise that possibility.

Although the carbon dioxide emissions from burning natural gas amount to only 50 percent of coal’s, rest assured that carbon capture and sequestration for natural gas is equally impossible except perhaps in the mind of an ivory-tower central planner.

Mr. Moniz comically asserted that President Obama is an “all-of-the-above person” when it comes to energy denying Mr. Obama’s blatant, four-year war on coal. The nominee apparently had not talked with the Obama adviser who recently told climate activist Bill McKibben that “our goal” is “killing coal” for the next decade.

Pressed by Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, to merely acknowledge that taxpayer subsidies for renewable energy would end at some point in the future, Mr. Moniz again dodged answering. He earlier asserted that he was “extremely bullish” on renewables, apparently missing the announcement by mega-institutional investor Calpers last month that it was backing out of its renewable investments after losing 10 percent per year since 2007.

Comparably disappointing to Mr. Moniz’s knee-jerk testimony against fossil fuel was the failure of Republican senators to press him on anything, even when he dodged questions about their constituent interests. Prior to the hearing, Mr. Moniz told a radical green blogger that he favored the tripling of fossil-fuel energy costs in order to curb emissions. No senator came close to asking about that statement.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testified during his own confirmation hearing that his is not a policymaking position. Because Mr. Obama is the boss and Cabinet secretaries are figureheads, the same can be said of Mr. Moniz. Meet the new energy secretary same as the old energy secretary.

Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is a senior fellow at the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.