Obama’s Energy Secretary
Attacks on His Legacy
MIT’s Ernest Moniz has taken on new roles preventing nuclear war,
advocating for clean energy, and criticizing Trump’s policies.
During nearly four years as U.S. energy
secretary, Ernest Moniz earned a reputation as a savvy political hand, particularly as nuclear physicists go, while his
Founding Fathers locks made him the
most meme-able member of President
Barack Obama’s cabinet.
When Donald Trump took office,
Moniz returned to his academic home at
MIT, serving as a professor emeritus and
special advisor to President L. Rafael Reif.
He held his fire in the early weeks of the
new administration, as the White House
took aim at Obama’s Climate Action Plan,
appointed climate-change deniers to critical posts, and sought deep funding cuts
to the Department of Energy. But more
recently Moniz has returned to the public
stage, condemning Trump’s withdrawal
from the Paris climate agreement.
He also took on a new role as chief
executive of the Nuclear Threat Initiative,
bringing his experience helping to negotiate the Iran nuclear deal and reviewing the
global weapons stockpile to an organization
dedicated to preventing attacks with weapons of mass destruction. In addition, he
joined the board of fusion startup Tri Alpha
Energy and helped establish the Energy
Futures Initiative, a nonprofit promoting
clean-energy innovation and policies.
In a recent interview with MIT Technology Review, Moniz discussed the
impact of the administration’s policies
on U.S. leadership, how it feels to have his
legacy come under attack, and what’s next
for nuclear. Below is an edited excerpt of
You responded fairly sharply to President
Trump’s decision to withdraw from the
Paris climate deal. What are the biggest or
most immediate dangers of that decision
in your view?
First of all, withdrawing from the Paris
accord fits a pattern of many statements
and actions that have called into question