Last Week, US President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Ernest Moniz, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative, to replace Steven Chu at the Department of Energy (DOE). He also nominated Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator in charge of air and radiation at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to replace former administrator Lisa Jackson. Both candidates are subject to Senate confirmation. McCarthy is expected to receive scrutiny, given Republican’s opposition to the President’s environmental and climate policies. However, while Senate Republicans say they are withholding judgment until after Moniz’s confirmation hearings, GOP aids and lobbyists say there are no immediate red flags that would result in his nomination being held up or filibustered.
“I hope the Senate will confirm them as soon as possible,” Mr. Obama said as he introduced the nominees. He described Moniz as “another brilliant scientist,” and stated that Ms. McCarthy was well suited with her experience as a state environmental official in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Moniz, who is a supporter of hydraulic fracturing, is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who served in the Clinton Administration as Under Secretary at DOE. More recently, Moniz served in the Obama administration as a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. His appointment as Secretary of Energy would be advantageous for the methanol industry.
Moniz served as the lead author in an interdisciplinary MIT study called “The Future of Natural Gas,” which found that the conversion of natural gas to methanol could provide a cost-effective route to manufacturing an alternative, or supplement, to gasoline and that methanol can be used in tri-flex fuel light-duty vehicles with a modest incremental vehicle cost. The study recommended that the U.S. government implement an ope
n fuel standard that requires automobile manufacturers to provide tri-flex fuel operation in light-duty vehicles and that it should also consider methanol fueling infrastructure subsidies similar to those given to the fueling infrastructure for ethanol.
The MIT study can be found here. Information on the nomination of Ernest Moniz can be found here and information on the nomination of Gina McCarthy can be found here.
With increasing public attention on hydraulic fracturing operations, the Methanol Institute had commissioned a white paper from engineering and scientific consultant Exponent examining the impact of methanol usage in hydraulic fracturing operations last August. Today, the Methanol Institute released an updated version of this white paper to address concerns regarding methanol air emissions from flowback water retention ponds.
Methanol is a naturally occurring, biodegradable molecule that is omnipresent in our environment. And, according to the report, since methanol is infinitely soluble in water, once it is used as an additive in fracking fluids methanol will practically not evaporate or volatize at all, meaning there is no concern regarding methanol air emissions. This conclusion was confirmed by air monitoring by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
A lot of attention is being focused on the development of new energy sources, and natural gas in particular has come under scrutiny for its possible adverse impact on the environment. The United States in particular has immense reserves of natural gas, much of it locked in shale formations, and across the globe countries are exploring ways to efficiently recover their own natural gas reserves to reduce dependence on foreign sources of energy and fuel their own economic growth. Hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ is an increasingly common way of extracting natural gas that is otherwise inaccessible to standard extraction.
A new white paper from the Methanol Institute, titled “Methanol Use in Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids,’ finds methanol to be an essential component of this energy recovery process. Methanol is employed by a number of different industries for various applications because, among other properties, it is biodegradable, will prevent water from freezing in low temperatures, and inhibits corrosion from other chemicals and acids. The oil and gas industry has long employed methanol in a number of different roles because of these valuable properties, and it is now one of the most commonly used additives in fracking fluids – though it is used in very small quantities, often less than 0.001%.