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Moniz, McCarthy Face Questions at Senate Confirmation Hearings

Senate confirmation hearings for Ernest Moniz and Gina McCarthy—President Barack Obama’s appointees to oversee the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—began this week.

For Moniz, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist, committee grilling started Tuesday. Natural gas exports were a popular topic throughout Moniz’s hearing—signaling his likely support for exports as a way to combat climate change. With some pressing, Moniz said he was open to reviewing a recent study commissioned by the DOE that found boosting natural-gas exports would yield economic benefits for the United States. The analysis has received some criticism for using outdated information and not fully examining the regional effects of exporting liquefied natural gas to markets in Europe and Asia. “We certainly want to make sure that we are using data that is relevant to the decision at hand,” Moniz said.

While Moniz ducked questions about his support of a carbon tax, he did endorse Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy and said he would push for renewable energy if he was confirmed. “The increase in U.S. unconventional oil production, combined with increased vehicle efficiency, will continue to reduce American oil imports and reduce our trade deficit,” said Moniz. “New technology development and deployment can and must further reduce the associated environmental footprint.”

In all, Politico reports, the hearing went smoothly for the former DOE undersecretary, and Moniz looks to be on the path for approval (subscription) that may refocus the department on its research and development roots. McCarthy’s hearing began at 10:30 ET today and focused on the practices of the EPA and the future of coal. Republicans also pushed her (subscription) on transparency, the use of fictitious e-mails and the science of decision making.

Sally Jewell, Obama’s pick for Interior Secretary, won Senate confirmation Wednesday.

Release of 2014 Budget Details Energy Priorities

The hearings—which put the focus on Obama’s regulatory agenda—come amid the unveiling of Obama’s roughly $3.8 trillion budget proposal, which shed light on Obama’s spending priorities.

Set to begin October 1, the budget would boost clean-tech spending by 40 percent over current levels, cut net oil imports in half by 2020 and seek to eliminate some tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. It also includes the $2 billion Energy Security Trust, which aims to shift America’s cars and trucks off oil entirely by investing in research for advances in electricity, domestically produced natural gas and homegrown biofuels. Moniz hinted in his Tuesday confirmation hearing that the United States spends too little on energy research—a statement The Washington Post examined in depth.

Climate Science in Education Standards Released this Week

New national science teaching guidelines, delving more deeply into the science of climate change, were released Tuesday. The Next Generation Science Standards were developed by a consortium of 26 state governments and several groups representing scientists and teachers. The guidelines are the first set of science standards to come out in 15 years and push more “critical thinking” and less memorization.

“There was never a debate about whether climate change would be in there,” said Heidi Schweingruber of the National Research Council, one of the key organizations responsible for development of the guidelines. “It is a fundamental part of science, and so that’s what our work is based on, the scientific consensus.”

Although states are not required to adopt the rules, 26 states—including Arizona, California, Iowa, Kansas and New York—are considering doing so.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.