The good news about Ernest Moniz, President Barack Obama's nominee to become secretary of energy, is that he seems bullish about natural gas. But the bad news is that Moniz sees gas as a means of slashing use of coal to produce electric power.
Obama revealed this past week that he is nominating Moniz, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, to replace Steven Chu at the Department of Energy. Chu has been an outspoken advocate of eliminating coal as a power-generation fuel.
Moniz has been criticized by some environmentalists because of an MIT report that seemed to minimize concerns about hydraulic fracturing technology used to obtain oil and natural gas. He has referred to gas as "a bridge to a low-carbon future." To that, on another occasion, he added that gas "will play a crucial role in enabling very substantial reductions in carbon emissions."
At the same time, Moniz seems open to clean-coal technology. He should be encouraged to divert some of the enormous sums the Obama administration is sometimes friviously spending on wind and solar power to developing better and cleaner ways to burn coal, which must continue to play a key role in America's overall energy policy.
Last week, Obama also introduced his choice as the new director of the Environmental Protection Agency. She is EPA veteran Gina McCarthy, who wrote many of the rules Obama has used to pursue his war on coal.
On balance, it appears Moniz and McCarthy signal the president's determination to continue his assault on coal. If so, it will be up to Congress to prevent the White House from sending electricity prices soaring for tens of millions of Americans.