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Obama Nominates Ernest Moniz as Energy Secretary

Energy

EcoWatch

Today President Obama nominate Ernest Moniz to be the next U.S. Secretary of Energy.

“In his role as Secretary of Energy, we urge Mr. Moniz to prioritize clean, renewable energy as climate solutions over destructive fossil fuels and boondoggles like liquefied natural gas exports," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

“We would stress to Mr. Moniz that an ‘all of the above’ energy policy only means ‘more of the same,’ and we urge him to leave dangerous nuclear energy and toxic fracking behind while focusing on safe, clean energy sources like wind and solar," said Brune.

According to Environment America, fracking operations to obtain gas have contaminated drinking water sources, made nearby residents sick and turned treasured landscapes into industrial zones. In just the past few weeks, gas drilling sites have spewed about 125,000 gallons of toxic fluids in Ohio and Colorado, and claimed the life of a worker in West Virginia. Gas extraction also releases significant global warming pollution.

Nuclear power puts the health and safety of millions of Americans at risk. According to a report by Environment America Research & Policy Center and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, Too Close to Home, the drinking water for 49 million Americans could be at risk of radioactive contamination from a leak or an accident at a local nuclear power plant. In addition, far from being a solution to global warming, nuclear power will actually set America back in the race to reduce pollution. Building new nuclear power plants is too slow and too expensive to make enough of a difference in the next two decades. A 2009 report by Environment America Research & Policy Center found that the up-front capital investment required to build 100 new nuclear reactors could prevent twice as much pollution over the next 20 years if invested in energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy instead.

Department of Energy programs like the Better Buildings Initiative to increase the efficiency of our nation’s buildings and the SunShot Initiative to make solar power cost-competitive in this decade have tapped into innovation and competition to solve our pollution and climate crises. These programs should be continued and similar initiatives for efficiency and renewable energy should be developed.

“There is much to be done over the next four years and beyond to ensure we address global warming with the serious and urgent attention that it demands, while ensuring our families’ health and safety is protected for generations to come," said Courtney Abrams, Environment America’s federal clean energy advocate.

“We are encouraged by President Obama’s recent forceful words on addressing global warming. We hope that the Department of Energy will continue and increase their focus on advancing energy efficiency and renewable energy so we can act with similar force to reduce the carbon pollution fueling the problem and move quickly toward fully powering our country with clean, renewable energy like wind and solar power.

“President Obama’s expected nominee for Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz, has a history of supporting dirty and dangerous energy sources like gas and nuclear power with polluting partners including BP, Shell, Chevron and Saudi Aramco. Given this track record, we hope Moniz will focus on clean, renewable ways to get our energy that don’t put our families and our environment in harm’s way.”

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.