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Obama energy chief Ernest Moniz to call for "Green Real Deal"

Obama's Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told Axios in an exclusive interview that he will call for a plan aimed at counterbalancing the Green New Deal.

Driving the news: Moniz, who was the energy secretary from 2013 to 2017 under President Obama, is delivering a speech today at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event in D.C. touting energy innovation.

  • In what he’s calling the "Green Real Deal," Moniz says building broad coalitions — including with big business — will be essential to drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next 30 years.
"If one is not pragmatic and pushes programs that are tough but at least achievable and if we can’t pull together and recognize the needs of a broad coalition, we won’t get there."
— Ernest Moniz, to Axios

Why it matters: Moniz, who now runs the think tank Energy Futures Initiative, is respected by many environmentalists and business leaders alike, so what he says could influence people across the political spectrum.

The other side: Backers of the Green New Deal, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and numerous Democratic presidential candidates, blame big business for blocking action and are pushing broad progressive policies that are unlikely to get support from fossil fuel companies or trade groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Between the lines: Moniz said speaking at the Chamber appealed to him because the powerful lobby group, long known for fighting climate-change policies, has “put out some strong statements recently about needing to move beyond the inaction phase.”

  • But, Moniz added, he’ll be sending a “very strong message that everybody, including the Chamber and their membership, has to walk the talk.”

One level deeper: Today’s speech is Moniz’s first on this topic since he laid out the broad parameters in a CNBC opinion piece this spring. Some of what he's likely to promote includes...

  • A price on carbon dioxide emissions, which Moniz says is “a good thing” but not a panacea. He says it needs to be structured in a way that doesn't hurt the poorest people the most and doesn't replace policies that reduce emissions for certain sectors, especially transportation.
  • Support for technologies and fuel sources that are controversial among some Democrats and environmentalists, including natural gas and nuclear power.

What’s next: Moniz will be speaking on this same topic in late September tied to a major UN climate summit in New York.

Go deeper: How California can meet its aggressive clean energy law