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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Dr.Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist, Founding Director of the MIT Energy Initiative and Director of the MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment, a former Undersecretary of DOE in charge of disposing of nuclear materials including those of Russia, he came to Head DOE in May 2013 after Nobel Laureate Steven Chu decided to return to academia.

Prof. Steven Chu was a vocal advocate for more research into renewable energy and nuclear power, arguing that a shift away from fossil fuels is essential to combating climate change. For example, he has conceived of a global “glucose economy”, a form of a low-carbon economy, in which glucose from tropical plants is shipped around like oil is today. On February 1, 2013, he announced he would not serve for the President’s second term and resigned on April 22, 2013. The position then fell to Prof. Moniz who seems to be more in tune with the President’s “All of the above” energy concept.

Secretary Moniz appeared today, October 6, 2014, before the New York Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in a conversation with Matthew A. Winkler, Editor in Chief, Bloomberg News. This was a very active day that started at NYU – energy.gov/epsa/agenda-energy-inf…

Agenda: Energy Infrastructure Finance. A Public Meeting on the Quadrennial Energy Review, Hosted by the United States Department of Energy and with Opening Remarks by

The Honorable Ernest Moniz, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy and
The Honorable Carolyn Maloney, Member from New York of the United States House of Representatives

The event dealt with: ATTRACTING AND MAINTAINING CAPITAL FOR ENERGY TRANSMISSION, STORAGE, AND DISTRIBUTION (TS&D); BANKABILITY OF ELECTRICITY TS&D INFRASTRUCTURE; OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR NATURAL GAS AND LIQUID FUELS TS&D INFRASTRUCTURE.

The CFR meeting was titled “A Conversation With Ernest Moniz” and after a short lunch was followed at CFR by a Panel “The Battle of Interests Over the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals” where Ms. Gail Fosler, formerly President of the Conference Board and now provider of advisory service for global business leaders and public policymakers, presided over discussants: Carol Adelman, Director, Center for Global Prosperity, Hudson Institute; Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations; and Fred Krupp. President, Environmental Defense Fund.

CFR showed interest also in the Arctic region emergence as a source of oil and gas as per: www.cfr.org/polar-regions/emergin…

In our posting we cover only the Ernest Moniz presentation before the CFR, as we feel this presentation introduced the Administration’s thinking without distraction from the conflicting interests of the 2014 various protagonists.

Asked what are the three main tasks of his Department, Professor Moniz opened by saying that a main task of his work is Energy Security, and going back to Jim Schlesinger who when the Department was established said this has to be considered in a collective context with the US allies, Moniz now mentioned the EU and specifically also the G7 and the immediacy of the need to assure heating gas for this winter for the Ukraine. In parallel he said he must devise a long-term plan on which he works with Canadian and UK experts even if the Russians do supply for now gas to Ukraine – the problem of energy security remains.

A second Question was if “All of the Above” is capable of handling the CO2 issue? The answer was that everything they do is geared to carbon reduction. Carbon sequestration is pushed with projects in this area involving enhanced oil recovery and oil production. Then there is the increased energy use efficiency in vehicles. Reduced dependence on oil is promoted and a new large bio-refinery will soon be opened in Kansas. So – it is nuclear, renewables, efficiency for the long-term and the use of gas in the mid-term. In the electricity production, wind use was increased by 45% and solar by 6%. LED is a great economic success. The stress is on aiming in 2015 to set goals of reduction in CO2 emissions by 17% in general with a reduction of 30% in the electricity sector. Most of this via sector by sector energy efficiency.

From here the discussion moved to the UN and the obvious that global challenges cannot be met without the Chinese and the European’s cooperation. “we saw at the UN strong statements by China, India, and he expects from these introductory statements a Paris outcome that has in it declarations of goals that are different by the different States. Asked directly if the target of 2 degrees Centigrade is realistic – the answer came in one word – “Challenging.” Then he enlarged by saying – “I would focus first on coal.” He feels bullish on solar – costs are coming down. 2000-2009 the US had no photovoltaic production now we have 9 plants and 12 under construction. He expects Europe to show leadership in the run-up to the 2015 meeting in Paris. “We will continue to encourage China, India, Brazil. and we will be a lot on airplanes.”

So far there was nothing new in what we heard except the emphasis on interdependence. Then came questions about exports from the US and about natural gas. His answers started by saying that the international market looks very different from 1975 when the laws forbidding exports of oil and gas from the US were passed. That is when we established DOE and the Petroleum Reserve etc. Ultimately exports are an issue for the Department of Commerce and not for DOE. There are also changes in production methods and at the petroleum refinery to be considered. He also pointed out that crude oil changed into products was not under those laws.

On the Keystone Pipeline he said that it was under the Secretary of State responsibility. On gas he predicted that exports cannot start before the end of 2015 – “so it is not an answer to Ukraine.”
Further, on a question about Eastern Mediterranean gas he said that this is also no answer for Europe’s needs. We consider these answers as newsworthy replies by the Secretary.

An added topic I was able to talk about with the Secretary after his presentation relates to the US position on supplies of oil and gas from the Arctic. He remarked that at the end of 2015 the Arctic Circle Council moves to the US for two years and he sees rather the subject from an environmental angle. To my great satisfaction I heard from him the old Sheik Yammani adage that the Age of Oil will end not because of a lack of oil. He also pointed at Shell Oil’s problems with their attempt at drilling for Arctic oil. With this attitude by the US I am now even more curious then ever of what will be the underlying spirit at the end of this moth’s meeting in Reykjavik of the 2014 Arctic Circle Assembly.

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