U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz pledged to speed reviews of applications to export natural gas and told lawmakers he supported development of all types of power, including from alternate sources.
Moniz, confirmed by the U.S. Senate a month ago, defended government spending on clean-energy projects that Republicans have faulted, saying climate change is a risk and the investments would give the U.S. an advantage in a burgeoning global renewable-energy market.
Federal spending has “laid the foundation for a new technology enterprise in this country,” Moniz said today during his first appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee as secretary.
Moniz, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he was nominated, faced some of the same Republican complaints about clean-energy spending as his predecessor, Steven Chu, although lawmakers today pledged to work with the department. Chu, also a physicist, was criticized by Republicans as a cheerleader for clean-energy investments, which critics said wasted taxpayer money. Lawmakers attacked the program after solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC went bankrupt two years after winning a half-billion dollar U.S. loan guarantee.
Moniz said the department would expeditiously act on requests from producers to export natural gas. The department is reviewing about 20 applications from companies including Dominion Resources Inc. (D) to sell liquefied natural gas to nations without free-trade agreements with the U.S., a reflection of how rising gas production from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has shifted the energy debate.
Issues stemming from fracking for oil and gas in shale formations can be managed, and most of the risks tied to the drilling technique stemmed from poor well design, Moniz told lawmakers.
“We know what to do,” Moniz said.
Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the committee, said the president’s budget for the department “doubles down” on “failed policies” that haven’t delivered the promised new jobs.
The budget includes $2.8 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a 56 percent increase from this year’s budget, according to a House Republican staff memo.
Representative Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican and chairman of the energy and power subcommittee, urged the administration to devote resources into fossil-fuel research.
Referring to a comment Chu made before he became energy chief, Whitfield said the U.S. doesn’t need an energy secretary who considers coal to be “his worst nightmare.”
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