7th March 2013 Boston, USA

Boston “townies” tasked with helping Obama on Climate Change and Energy

The anticipation is building in New England as two Bostonians were nominated for key positions within the new Obama administration. On Monday, President Obama named Ernest Moniz as energy secretary and Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Moniz, a professor of physics and engineering at MIT, is a leading energy researcher that played a key policy role during the Clinton administration. As Director of the MIT Energy Initiative, Moniz has adopted an “all of the above” position on energy resources that is very much aligned with the UK energy objectives of promoting greater contributions from domestic renewable energy sources, yet also maintaining cheap energy options from traditional fossil fuels. Boston SIN and UKTI members recently attended MIT’s annual conference covering energy topics, where Moniz continued to emphasize that we must explore the use of nuclear power, as well as continue research into carbon capture and storage for coal, renewable energy and shale gas produced by hydraulic fracturing.

Born in Dorcester, McCarthy spent most of her education and professional policy work in Massachusetts, focused upon preservation of environmental resources and climate change. McCarthy was undersecretary for policy at the Executive Office for Environmental Affairs under the Romney administration, and was then named the first head of Connecticut’s EPA in 2004. She currently serves as the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, and is expected to lead the President’s efforts in reducing global warming emission levels during his second term.

Local reactions to both nominations have been very positive. Though some members of the Boston cleantech industry viewed Moniz’s nomination as a disappointment because he is an academic (replacing departing secretary Chu, another academic), Moniz is well-versed in the ways of Washington and brings scientific credibility that will enable him to balance his focus to include the deployment of emerging technologies from the R&D sector, rather than just their development. McCarthy will face a tougher confirmation ahead, as she represents the tough regulatory measures that many congressional leaders view as an obstacle to job growth. However, her willingness to keep the lines of communication open with members of industry will be an asset to her direction of the EPA.

Both nominees will bring the threat of climate change, a growing global issue and priority for the UK, to the forefront of political discussion in the US. The nomination of people from my backyard signals that progress in energy and climate change legislation will be moving forward in the US. Here’s hoping the confirmation process moves swiftly…

About Sarah Hokanson

Dr Sarah Hokanson joined the Science & Innovation team at the British Consulate General in Boston in January 2013 after finishing a NIH post-doctoral fellowship at Cornell University. Sarah has…

Dr Sarah Hokanson joined the Science & Innovation team at the British Consulate General in Boston in January 2013 after finishing a NIH post-doctoral fellowship at Cornell University. Sarah has a love for discovery, whether it be uncovering the answer to a scientific question or getting to the end of a very good book. Graduating with B.A. degrees in Chemistry and English from Boston University and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 2010. Sarah’s work focuses on identifying New England leaders in bioscience innovation and building connections between the New England and UK scientific and technical communities. When Sarah is not working to facilitate scientific collaborations, she is busy pursuing independent research questions such as, “Does cake flour really produce fluffier cupcakes?” (She has since found that cake flour makes a really big difference.) Sarah also helps to organize events for the Boston University alumni club.