Ernest Moniz was confirmed as Energy secretary by unanimous Senate vote on Thursday, sources reported. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor replaces Steven Chu, who served as secretary during President Obama's first term in office.
The vote was 97-0 for the 68-year-old physicist.
In a statement, President Obama lauded Moniz's "expertise in a range of energy sources," and said that Moniz, like the president, believes the U.S. "must lead the world in developing more sustainable sources of energy that create new jobs and new industries," and pose a doable response to the threat of global climate change.
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The confirmation seemed a foregone conclusion. On the Senate floor prior to the vote, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said: "A number of my colleagues and I are optimistic about Dr. Moniz's pragmatic approach to solving the country's energy challenges."
The MIT Energy Initiative, which Moniz heads, is partly funded by BP, Shell and Saudi Aramco, Politico reported. The new secretary also has financial interests with a number of energy companies, according to Politico.
The new secretary also had drawn skepticism and outright hostility from environmental groups, not least because of his support for the natural gas industry and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
"Natural gas is a dirty, dangerous fossil fuel, which poses serious health risks due to air and water pollution from fracking and releases large quantities of methane –- a gas that has more than 70 times the climate impact of carbon dioxide," Deb Nardone, the Sierra Club's natural gas campaign director, said during Moniz's confirmation hearings.
Moniz served as undersecretary of the department during the Clinton years.
The Senate also voted to move along the Cabinet nominations of Thomas Perez as Labor secretary and Gina McCarthy for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Washington Post reported.
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