The Senate Thursday unanimously confirmed Ernest J. Moniz as the next secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE), succeeding Steven Chu, who oversaw the department during President Obama’s first term.

The Senate approved the Moniz nomination by a 97-0 vote. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had placed a hold on the nomination to protest proposed budget cuts to a nuclear processing facility in his home state, but he removed his hold after favorable talks with the White House.

Moniz comes to DOE after having been a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was DOE undersecretary in the Clinton administration. Moniz also served as science adviser in the administration and director of the MIT Energy Initiative. He is a familiar face to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where he has testified on a variety of energy issues (see Daily GPI, March 5).

Moniz is seen as friendly to natural gas development, calling it a “bridge fuel” even as he has called for more funding for renewable energy. In 2010 he co-authored an MIT study that concluded that gas will be a leader in reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions over the next several decades, mostly by replacing older, inefficient coal plants with combined-cycle gas-fueled generation.

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