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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 6th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


We  were waiting to see who will be the new nominees and how the President intends to make good on his promises to move the economy forward by using the fight against global warming as his main tool for development within the United States.

For now we post the New York Times evaluation and we will obviously look to enlarge on this posting.

At first look it seems that the President made very shrewed appointments – with an eye directed to his opposition.

Ms. McCarthy, is a native of Massachusetts and she served under Mr. Romney the Good – before he became Romney the Bad – that is before he turned against the positive policies he backed as Governor of Massachusetts. His minions will now oppose her work – you can bet on it.

Professor Moniz believes in climate change but thinks that Natural Gas and Nuclear Power are the most effective immediate answer to the US dependence on fossil fuels. He will surely learn very fast that environmentalists believe with all their hart that Natural Gas is made with fossil carbon, and that while decreasing emissions, the use of fossil carbon methane is no answer to global warming – then nuclear power has no friends among the population either. It seems that push for EFFICIENCY in energy use and setting a policy for longer term change will be the more immediate solution.

Including the appointment of Ms. Burwell to be the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget , to round out this trio, is a very good move. She has worked in the Clinton Administration and is a known entity that has close relations to the new treasury Secretary and former Chief of Staff – Mr. Jacob J. Lew – and then turned to managing large Foundations – the Bill Gates and the Walmart Foundations- both headquartered far away from Washington DC, and doing a lot of good.
She will be of help in figuring out the budget implications of what the other two appointees will suggest. This is thus a middle of the road trio capable of coming up with the needed change in the US Economy – with a positive reflection on the Environment and on Energy.

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Editorial

Two Enlistees in the Climate Wars

Published: March 5, 2013 1 Comment

Mr. Obama nominated Gina McCarthy, an experienced clean air regulator, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, and Ernest Moniz, an M.I.T. physicist and strong advocate of natural gas and nuclear power, to run the Energy Department. Both believe global warming is one of humanity’s most pressing challenges. Both have deep experience — Ms. McCarthy as an assistant administrator at the E.P.A. and an adviser to Republican governors in Connecticut and Massachusetts, Mr. Moniz as an under secretary of energy in the Clinton administration.

Both will be required to use their regulatory authority creatively and aggressively. There is zero chance that Congress will enact the “bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change” that Mr. Obama called for in his State of the Union address. This means that his second-term agenda on climate change will run through Ms. McCarthy’s and Mr. Moniz’s agencies, and will depend almost entirely on executive actions that do not require Congressional approval. Here are three strategies that could make a big dent in carbon emissions.

¶Invoke the E.P.A.’s authority under the Clean Air Act to limit pollution from stationary sources, chiefly fossil-fuel power plants that account for almost 40 percent of the country’s carbon emissions. The agency has already proposed strict standards requiring new power plants to capture their emissions, an untested technology. The bigger problem is what to do with existing plants, which provide a big chunk of the nation’s electricity and which cannot be shut down quickly or by fiat. Devising a gradual phaseout will require ingenuity and persistence in the face of what are sure to be strong legal and political challenges from industry.

¶Make natural gas safer. Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, the country is now awash in natural gas. One major reason for the unexpected decline in national carbon emissions is that many power plants have switched from coal to natural gas, which emits only half as much carbon dioxide. But there is a downside: drilling for and transporting natural gas can produce methane leaks, and methane is a potent greenhouse gas that can cancel out whatever carbon advantage gas has over coal. Much tougher restrictions must be imposed throughout the system, including on thousands of miles of pipelines.

¶Improve energy efficiency across the board. One of the success stories of the last 30 years has been the increase in energy efficiency in appliances, new commercial buildings, and cars and light trucks. But there is plenty of room for improvement. The task of designing ever-stricter standards will fall largely to Mr. Moniz.

There is obviously more: finding new refrigerants to replace climate-warming hydrofluorocarbons, investing not only in familiar renewable energy sources like wind and solar power but also in basic research, next-generation nuclear plants and experimental technologies that could smooth the path to a low-carbon economy.

Little of this will happen without a good deal of push-back from industry and its Congressional allies. From start to finish line, Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Moniz will need the president at their back.

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Obama Announces 3 Cabinet Nominations.

By and
Published: March 4, 2013

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Monday made three cabinet nominations — for budget, energy and environmental policy — hours before his first cabinet meeting of his second term.

Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Obama introduced Sylvia Mathews Burwell, his choice to be the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, on Monday.

Mr. Obama introduced Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the president of the Walmart Foundation in Arkansas and a familiar figure in the Democratic administration from her service in the Clinton administration, to be the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Ernest J. Moniz, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative, is the president’s choice to take over for Steven Chu at the Energy Department. And Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator in charge of air and radiation at the Environmental Protection Agency, is the pick to replace the departing administrator, Lisa P. Jackson. All three positions are subject to Senate confirmation.

Ms. McCarthy most likely faces the greatest scrutiny given Republicans’ opposition to Mr. Obama’s environmental and climate policies.

“I hope the Senate will confirm them as soon as possible,” Mr. Obama said as he introduced the three nominees and thanked the current holders of the cabinet posts in the East Room, which was packed with family, friends and administration staff members.

Mr. Obama described Dr. Moniz as “another brilliant scientist” to succeed Dr. Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, at the Energy Department. And for the E.P.A., the president said Ms. McCarthy was well suited with her experience as a state environmental official in both Massachusetts — for former Gov. Mitt Romney — and Connecticut. She has “a reputation as a straight-shooter” who “welcomes different points of view,” he added.

Together, Ms. McCarthy and Dr. Moniz are “going to be making sure that we’re investing in American energy, that we’re doing everything that we can to combat the threat of climate change, that we’re going to be creating jobs and economic opportunity in the first place,” Mr. Obama said, implicitly addressing the criticism, especially from Republicans, that environmental policies inhibit the economy.

The applause that greeted Ms. Burwell as the budget nominee reflected how familiar she remains, having served President Bill Clinton at the budget office, where she was the deputy director, as well as at the Treasury Department and in the White House. In that time, she worked closely with Jacob J. Lew, now Mr. Obama’s Treasury secretary, who recommended Ms. Burwell for the budget director’s job, which he held for both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama. Since then, Ms. Burwell has lived far from Washington, first in Washington State during her time leading global development programs for the Gates Foundation and then in Bentonville, Ark., Walmart’s headquarters.

Mr. Obama used his announcement of Ms. Burwell’s nomination to once more address the across-the-board cuts to military and domestic spending, known as sequestration, that took effect on Friday, after he and Congressional Republicans failed to agree on a more deliberate set of deficit reduction actions.

She and the acting budget director, Jeffrey D. Zients, “will do everything in their power to blunt the impact of these cuts on businesses and middle-class families,” the president said. “But eventually a lot of people are going to feel some pain. That’s why we’ve got to keep on working to reduce our deficit in a balanced way.”

Mr. Obama also hinted that he would find another post in his administration for Mr. Zients, a former business executive, who is well respected within the White House. He has been mentioned as a possible nominee to be Mr. Obama’s trade representative or commerce secretary — two of the last cabinet posts that Mr. Obama must fill to complete his second-term team.

“I expect he will continue to serve us well in the future,” Mr. Obama said.

The choice of Ms. McCarthy is likely to generate considerable opposition because she is identified with several of the Obama administration’s most ambitious clean air regulations, including proposed greenhouse gas regulations for new power plants. Mr. Obama has pledged to address climate change in his second term, and he is expected to use the authority granted to the E.P.A. under the Clean Air Act to reduce climate-altering emissions from power plants and other major sources.

In choosing Dr. Moniz, Mr. Obama has once again selected a nuclear physicist, although one with more political experience; Dr. Moniz was the under secretary of energy in President Bill Clinton’s second term.

Dr. Moniz, like his predecessor, Dr. Chu, is highly focused on how to meet a skyrocketing global demand for energy while mitigating adverse effects on the environment, and like Dr. Chu, he has focused on the need for technology innovation.

He also shares with Dr. Chu a scientist’s view of politics. In a memo posted on his program’s Web site in November 2012, he said that the M.I.T. Energy Initiative was continuing to supply technical research “in the interest of providing some degree of rationality in the ongoing political discussion.”

Ms. McCarthy, 58, is a native of Massachusetts and was a top environmental official there and in Connecticut, serving under Democratic and Republican governors, including, for a time, Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president.

She has a reputation as a blunt-speaking, assertive voice for strong environmental policies, particularly health-related clean air policies. As a senior E.P.A. official in Mr. Obama’s first term, she helped fashion tough new emissions standards for cars and light trucks, tightened standards for mercury and other harmful pollutants in the air, and issued the first proposed regulations for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollutants for new power plants. Those new rules would make it virtually impossible to build any new coal-fired power plants in the United States.

Coal and utility industry officials accused her and other E.P.A. officials of waging a “war on coal,” and that issue is likely to come up in her confirmation hearings.

Jeffrey Holmstead, who led the E.P.A.’s air and radiation office in the George W. Bush administration, predicted that Ms. McCarthy would win confirmation, although the hearings might produce some sparks.

“I assume many people on the G.O.P. side will want to use confirm hearings to express concerns,” Mr. Holmstead said. “But there is a sense among industry folks that Gina took the time to listen to and understand their concerns. She’s certainly not pro-industry, but she does try to understand an issue and address it.”

Environmental advocates generally applauded the choice of Ms. McCarthy, which has been circulating in Washington for weeks.

Every American is or will soon be breathing cleaner air because of Gina McCarthy,” said Frank O’Donnell, the director of Clean Air Watch, an advocacy group. “She has spearheaded vital public health improvements, including cleanup of mercury and other toxins from coal-burning power plants, a more protective health standard for fine-particle soot and landmark greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles.”

“But huge challenges remain,” he added, “including the need for smog-fighting lower-sulfur gasoline, a tougher national smog standard, and greenhouse gas limits on both new and existing power plants.”

At M.I.T., Dr. Moniz has delved deeply into the practicalities of various energy sources; the institute has produced a series of five major interdisciplinary studies on energy topics, and he was the chairman or co-chairman of four of them, on the future of coal, of natural gas, of the nuclear fuel cycle and of nuclear power. (He skipped the one on the power grid.) All four showed an engineer’s realism; the study of coal, for example, said that greater use would be an environmental blow but that it was inevitable, given the world’s energy needs and the widespread dispersal of the resource.

And the studies, over the last 10 years, were not always right; the 2003 study on nuclear power, for example, underestimated the price of building a new reactor by at least half.

Like many academic leaders, he has strong ties to industry, some of them certain to draw fire now. The Energy Initiative recently announced that ENI, the Italian oil company, had renewed its participation as a founding member, and would contribute at a level that “significantly exceeds the founding member support level of $5 million per year.” The other corporate founding members are BP, Shell and Saudi Aramco. Other sponsors include Chevron and several utilities, including the parent company of Southern California Edison, Entergy, Duke Energy and Électricité de France, all nuclear reactor operators.

Dr. Moniz attracted some opposition even before the president announced his intention to nominate him. At Food and Water Watch, an organization that opposes hydraulic fracturing, Wenonah Hauter, the director, called hima known cheerleader” for fracking.

“His appointment to the D.O.E. could set renewable energy development back years,” she said. “The oil and gas industry will thrive while true energy efficiency and renewable solutions languish.”

His previous support of expanding nuclear power as a way to meet energy needs while limiting climate change is also likely to make him a magnet for opponents.

Before serving as energy under secretary from 1997 to 2001, Dr. Moniz, 68, was the associate director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Clinton White House. At the Energy Department, he led a major effort to determine how the nation would maintain its stockpile of nuclear weapons without test explosions; he was also the department’s negotiator on the disposition of Russian nuclear weapons materials.

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