Obama nominates Moniz as secretary of energy

By Erin Voegele | March 04, 2013

President Obama has nominated Ernie Moniz as Secretary of Energy. Moniz is a physics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A nuclear physicist, Moniz has served as director of MIT’s Energy Initiative. If confirmed, Moniz will replace current Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, who announced his resignation Feb. 1.

During his speech to announce the nominations of Moniz and other cabinet-level officials, Obama said one challenge faced by our nation building on the work we’ve done to control our own energy future while reducing pollution that contributes to climate change. “And few people have played more of a role in addressing these issues than current Secretary of Energy Steven Chu,” he said. “Steven has helped us to speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy. He’s given more of our brightest young scientists the opportunity to pursue the ideas that will shape our future. So I could not be more grateful to Steve for the incredible contribution that he’s made to this country. And now that he’s decided to leave Washington for sunny California, I’m proud to nominate another brilliant scientist to take his place—Mr. Ernie Moniz.”

Moniz has a history of working at the DOE, serving as Under Secretary of Energy under President Clinton. “Since then, he’s directed MIT’s Energy Initiative, which brings together prominent thinkers and energy companies to develop the technologies that can lead us to more energy independence and also to new jobs,” Obama said. “Most importantly, Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while still taking care of our air, our water and our climate. And so I could not be more pleased to have Ernie join us.”

According to MIT, Moniz serves as director of both the MIT Energy Initiative and the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment. At MIT, he has also served as the head of department of physics and as director of the Bates Linear Accelerator Center. His principal research contributions have been in theoretical nuclear physics and in energy technology and policy studies.

Information released by MIT notes that the MIT Energy Initiative was created in 2006 and is designed to link science, innovation and policy to help transform global energy systems. Under Moniz’s leadership as founding director, the initiative has supported nearly 800 research projects, two-thirds of which are focused on renewable energy, energy efficiency, carbon management and enabling tools such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and advanced modeling.

One biofuel project recently announced through the initiative focuses on methods to boost isobutnaol production in yeast. The MIT chemical engineers involved in the project engineered yeast so that isobutanol synthesis takes place entirely within the mitochondria, boosting isobutanol production by approximately 260 percent.

Obama also nominated Gina McCarthy as EPA administrator and Sylvia Mathews Burwell as director of the Office of Management and Budget. “I hope the Senate will confirm them as soon as possible, because we’ve got a lot of work to do and we cannot afford delay,” Obama said. “But I can promise you that as soon as the Senate gives them the go ahead, they're going to hit the ground running and they're going to help make America a stronger and more prosperous country.”