Ernest Moniz is the antithesis of Donald Trump. As the head of the Department of Energy throughout much of President Obama’s second term, he was responsible for championing the Paris Climate Accord, negotiating the Iran nuclear deal with former Secretary of State John Kerry, and diligently pursuing a broad-based energy strategy often called the “all of the above” option. He is as comfortable testifying before the Senate as he is leading rigorous research efforts into the future of energy systems. There are few theoretical physicists who seem to enjoy the grind-it-out politics of Congressional appropriations, but Moniz is one of them.
Perhaps it is not a surprise that Moniz’s accomplishments have come under attack by Trump’s administration. The biggest move was the president’s announcement that the United States would pull out of the Paris treaty, much to the dismay of the international community and American business leaders.
When I spoke to him recently, Moniz spelled out his legacy, as he sees it, and the various ways that the current administration is undermining the very programs that, as he put it, “have clear track records of tremendous success.”
For Moniz, that includes the Loan Programs Office, which made capital available for the deployment of energy technology. After—and despite—the well-publicized Solyndra debacle, that program has experienced few losses and generated substantial returns for taxpayers. Also on Trump’s chopping block are ARPA-E, a research program modeled on the famous Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, and a new structure Moniz created at the Department of Energy called the Energy Policy and Systems Analysis Office, which he says was designed to and received bipartisan support.