Moniz vows to elevate role of states, localities to inform agency priorities

Source: Katherine Ling, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Energy Department will step up its focus on state and local needs to support a transition to a low-carbon economy, especially in developing the Quadrennial Energy Review, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said yesterday during a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing.

“We are going to be developing the Quadrennial Review process with a much more regional, local focus,” Moniz said.

The national labs’ numerous and diverse locations in the United States can act as “regional centers” to provide better insight for local issues and will be a key part of boosting the DOE-local relationships, especially for the four-year review process, Moniz said. The secretary has made the Quadrennial Energy Review, a plan to prioritize and coordinate efforts across various DOE offices and between the department and other agencies, a key focus early in his tenure (Greenwire, April 16).

Moniz added that overall one of his goals “is to significantly upgrade our interactions with states and localities.” Different areas of the country have different energy issues, so “we need to do more recognition of that so we can work with regions and develop appropriate approaches for a future low-carbon economy,” he said.

Incorporating the labs and state and local interests earlier in the strategic process should also create a better “technology ecosystem” to help “draw out” important discoveries made at the labs, Moniz said.

“When it comes to technology transfer from the laboratories, it is not at a level we should expect. I believe we should do more,” he said.

The hearing continued a week of appearances by Moniz on the Hill where the science of climate change and the future of liquefied natural gas exports dominated the conversation — including last week’s testimony before a subpanel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a speech earlier this week at an Energy Information Administration conference.

Moniz reiterated several times that he plans to be “expeditious” in reviewing LNG export applications on a case-by-case basis and that his “personal review period is maturing.” He added he understood the frustrations companies had in waiting on a conditional export license, which is just the beginning of a process of getting investors, suppliers and equipment lined up.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and several other Republicans on the committee continued to press Moniz on the science of climate change, echoing the line of questioning from their colleagues in the panel’s Energy Subcommittee last week. Smith repeatedly asked Moniz to give him the percentage of climate change caused by man-made carbon emissions as opposed to natural emissions.

Moniz said the carbon cycle including ocean absorption made that calculation difficult.

“Well, there is no way to make a percentage, but there is no doubt in my mind that anthropogenic causes are the major contributor to climate change,” Moniz said.

Moniz also noted that preparing for a low-carbon economy by investing in clean technology and making it cost-competitive would help the U.S. economy, not put it at a disadvantage.

“I think we should ‘advantage’ ourselves. Then we may have a discussion about what it means to ‘advantage’ ourselves today, 10 years from now or 30 years from now. The energy scene, no matter what the drivers are, is not going to look the same as it does today,” he said.

“I think when we look back in time 10 years, 20 years, we are always amazed at how the world looks so different, but when we look forward we tend to think it is going to look just the same,” Moniz added.