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Senate Panel Approves Obama’s Energy Secretary Nominee

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the nomination of Ernest Moniz as secretary of the Energy Department, setting up a confirmation vote by the full Senate.

Moniz, whom President Barack Obama nominated for the position last month, heads the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Institute and serves on the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.

The panel’s vote was 21-1, with South Carolina Republican Tim Scott the only opposition. Moniz, 68, faced questions at an April 9 hearing on issues including natural gas export licenses, renewable energy and the Energy Department’s handling of radioactive waste.

“He knows how the department works from the inside,” Chairman Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said today in favor of Moniz’s nomination. He will “make sure our country doesn’t lose its competitive edge, particularly to China.”

Moniz served as undersecretary of energy from 1997 to 2001 and has advised the Obama administration on energy issues. From 1995 to 1997 he was associate director for science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Issues before the Energy Department include hydraulic fracturing in shale rock, which has driven down costs for natural gas and boosted U.S. manufacturers that use natural gas as a fuel or ingredient for their products. The department is reviewing more than 16 applications from companies that want to export some of the U.S.’s growing natural gas reserves.

Moniz, who joined Cambridge, Massachusetts-based MIT as a physics professor in 1973, is founding director and head of the MIT Energy Initiative, a forum created in 2006 for conducting global energy research largely funded by energy companies.

He was a member of Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, which issued a report in January 2012 that studied long-term solutions to nuclear waste, excluding the proposed Yucca Mountain site.

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