Today's News / Environmental and Occupational Health

Fracking foes oppose likely Secretary of Energy pick

Dr. Ernest Moniz has close ties to oil and gas industry

February 25, 2013
KEYWORDS carbon / climate / emissions / moniz
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President Obama’s rumored pick for Secretary Energy is drawing loud “boos” from a coalition of anti-fracking groups, who say the appointment of Dr. Ernest Moniz would be “a major step backwards” in addressing the problems caused by climate change.

Americans Against Fracking is urging Obama to reconsider his selection. The Massachusetts Institution of Technology (MIT) physics professor has been an outspoken proponent of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of obtaining natural gas also known as “fracking.” Moniz is director of MIT’s Energy Initiative, whose founding members include Shell, Saudi Aramco, ENI and BP Technology Ventures, Inc.

“You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist to know that hydraulic fracturing is no answer to our nation’s energy needs, yet President Obama is poised to appoint one who also happens to be a cheerleader for this polluting process,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter.

In testimony before Congress in July of 2011, Moniz referred to the environmental risks of fracking as being “challenging but manageable." Those risks include potential contamination of groundwater aquifers with drilling fluids or natural gas.

According to, an industry website, the wells used in fracking have layers of cement and steel casing to prevent groundwater leaks. Additionally, “most wells are monitored with state of the art equipment.” As for airborne emissions, the site says they fall under state and federal limits, and that the industry is working with the EPA to define New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) that will further reduce emissions.

In his State of the Union speech, the president pledged to address the increasing threat of climate change – something made worse by natural gas extraction processes,” according to Americans Against Fracking. “In addition to the carbon dioxide emitted from burning natural gas, significant amounts of methane leak as new wells are fracked and as natural gas is transported. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, about 33 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide over 100 years, and about 70 to 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide over 20 years according to a 2009 study published in Science Magazine.”

Together, Food & Water Watch and CREDO have collected almost 125,000 signatures to petitions urging the president to reconsider his rumored appointment.

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