November 25, 2020

Collin Rees, collin [at]
Jamie Henn, jamie [at]

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Opposition to Ernie Moniz and Fossil Fuel Appointments Intensifies

Moniz’s extensive fossil fuel ties have made him a top target for climate activists

Washington, D.C. — A broad coalition of climate, progressive, and environmental justice groups are engaged in an all-out push to keep former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz out of the Biden Administration, because of Moniz’s extensive ties to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries, retrograde views on climate policy, and outright hostility towards climate advocates. 

On Wednesday, groups including the Climate Justice Alliance, Oil Change U.S., Greenpeace USA, Sunrise Movement, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth U.S., and more launched a new website,, to rally opposition against Moniz. This followed an action on Tuesday evening in Washington, DC, in which messages urging Biden to reject Moniz and choose a fossil-free cabinet were projected onto the main Department of Energy building. Photos and videos are available here.

“With his deep ties to the fossil fuel industry and promotion of false solutions like carbon capture and sequestration, Ernest Moniz is not a forward-thinking choice for the Cabinet. As we face interlinked challenges like never before, we need people in the President-elect’s Cabinet willing to listen to and collaborate with the most innovative sectors while centering the frontline, environmental justice communities most harmed by extractive energy practices,” said Angela Adrar, Executive Director of the Climate Justice Alliance. “The Department of Energy must be led by someone open to concrete ideas for a fossil-free future, not continued dominance by a corrupt, heavily-subsidized industry whose existence hinges on maintaining an antiquated all-of-the-above strategy. Moniz’s track record and standing associations are proof he is not that person. If President-elect Biden’s proclamation to ‘build back better’ is genuine, he must look forward, not backward.”

“Ernest Moniz’s ‘all of the above’ energy policies might be good for his friends in the coal, oil, and gas industries, but they’re a death sentence for us and our planet,” the website reads. “It’s unacceptable that Moniz is being considered for a role in the Biden administration — his policies, financial ties to fossil fuel companies, contempt for youth climate activists, and overall unwillingness to do what it takes to protect our future should disqualify him immediately.” 

The site features a letter from over 75 organizations to President-elect Joe Biden urging him not to appoint Moniz to any position within his administration. It also references a letter signed by over 150 organizations urging Biden not to appoint people with ties to the fossil fuel industry. Moniz — who served on the board of a major fossil fuel utility and regularly collaborates with industry front groups — clearly fails that test. 

“Ernest Moniz’s ties to the fossil fuel industry spell danger for the nation’s efforts to mitigate the climate crisis,” said Greenpeace USA Climate Campaign Director Janet Redman. “Moniz’s ability to represent our communities’ best interests is compromised by his deep ties to the fossil fuel industry — including his current board position at Southern Company, one of the most polluting oil and gas utilities in the U.S. We need a true climate leader who understands that we must phase out fossil fuels, not a corporate shill with ‘all of the above energy’ policies who wants to prop up fracked gas and pipelines. The American people have given Joe Biden a mandate to take bold action in service of climate justice, public health, economic prosperity, and racial equity. Moniz would only be holding him back.”

Moniz’s ties to the fossil fuel industry and his continued support for oil and gas are well documented. Moniz serves on the board of Southern Company, one of the U.S.’s most fossil fuel-heavy power companies, and his consultancy is a partner in an LNG export facility in Louisiana. He’s worked closely with fossil fuel industry front groups like SoCalGas to advocate for an ongoing role for climate-polluting methane gas. He’s touted boondoggles like ‘clean coal.’ 

The Energy Initiative Moniz founded at MIT took millions of dollars from oil companies to “support sponsored research projects aligned with their strategic interests.” He’s also been a leading critic of the Green New Deal, going so far as to introduce his own so-called “Green Real Deal,” and has disparaged youth climate activists around the world as the “climate elite.” 

“President-elect Joe Biden has a mandate to govern as a climate president, and that means keeping fossil fuel representatives like Ernest Moniz far from the White House,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “To protect people and wildlife from irreversible climate chaos, Biden must use every tool at his disposal to phase out fossil fuel production and advance environmental justice. That means saying no to advice from Moniz and his friends in the oil and gas industry.”

Groups are also concerned about Moniz’s extensive ties to the nuclear industry. As energy secretary, Moniz ensured $8 billion in U.S. taxpayer-backed loans went to two new nuclear reactors at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle in Georgia.

“Moniz has undermined climate progress to curry favor with the nuclear industry. He even authorized a process that shifted the financial risk for these dangerous, money-sucking projects onto the public. Taxpayers could very well be saddled with a massive bill for this nuclear debacle,” said Karen Orenstein, Climate and Energy Director at Friends of the Earth U.S. “As Moniz collects donations to his own organizations from Southern Company’s foundation, the Vogtle project drags on, ensuring continued greenhouse emissions and diverting billions of dollars from real climate solutions. If President-elect Biden is to truly prioritize the public interest over polluters and profiteers, he must not give Moniz any role whatsoever in his Administration.”


One Comment

  • Former Obama officials are keenly aware of the pitfalls of a go-it-alone approach. Ernest Moniz, Obama’s former energy secretary, said legislation passed with support from both parties tends to be the best way to make durable change — and that it is still worth trying.

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