* Moniz was Energy Undersecretary during Clinton
* Works on energy innovation with industry backing at MIT
* Member of Obama's science advisory council
(Adds details and background)
By Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON, Feb 6 President Barack Obama is
considering naming nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, one of his
science and energy advisers, as the next energy secretary,
sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.
Moniz, who was undersecretary at the Energy Department
during the Clinton administration, is a familiar figure on
Capitol Hill, where he has often talked to lawmakers about how
abundant supplies of U.S. natural gas will gradually replace
coal as a source of electricity.
Moniz is director of MIT's Energy Initiative, a research
group that gets funding from industry heavyweights including BP
, Chevron, and Saudi Aramco for academic work on
projects aimed at reducing climate-changing greenhouse gases.
He did not respond to an e-mail request for comment on
Obama gave a speech at MIT early in his first term where he
praised the Energy Initiative's research and spoke about the
urgent need to address climate change - a cause he has pledged
to elevate again as a top priority for his second term.
Obama is in the process of reshaping his energy and
environmental policy team.
Earlier on Wednesday he nominated Sally Jewell, chief
executive of outdoor retailer REI, to be interior secretary,
overseeing the national parks and vast U.S. energy reserves.
He is also expected to name a new leader of the
Environmental Protection Agency. Sources told Reuters Gina
McCarthy, a top official in charge of air quality at the EPA, is
the leading candidate for the job.
Moniz is a member of the President's Council of Advisors on
Science and Technology, a group that gives Obama recommendations
on the role of science and innovation in the economy.
Moniz would replace Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning
physicist who announced last week he plans to step down.
Chu had been criticized for ignoring the huge U.S. boom in
oil and gas development as he focused on spurring renewable
Moniz would bring scientific acumen to the job, but he also
has worked closely with industry and promoted natural gas as a
"bridge fuel" to lower carbon pollution while new innovative
forms of energy are being developed.
In July 2011, Moniz told the Senate Energy committee that he
believes the water and air pollution risks associated with
hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" were "challenging but
manageable" with appropriate regulation and oversight.
From his time in the Clinton administration, he has
experience managing the department's oversight of a chain of
national laboratories and the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons.
After Obama made good on a first-term campaign promise to
shut down the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in
Nevada, he named Moniz to a "Blue Ribbon" panel that looked for
a new approach for storing toxic nuclear waste.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason; Editing by Paul
Simao and Lisa Shumaker)