In his October 12th congressional testimony about why he cost U.S. taxpayers some $56,000 for travel on non-commercial aircraft, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry suggested that his predecessor, Ernest Moniz, had done essentially the same thing.
Indeed, the Secretary may have a point – – but only because some of Secretary Moniz’s travel was highly questionable.
Secretary Moniz did plenty of traveling, including to Turkey and Europe, accompanied by Southern Company Chief Executive Officer Tom Fanning in support of Southern’s now-abandoned Kemper “clean coal” plant and the proprietary gasification technology it employed.
That technology, known as TRIG, for Transport Integrated Gasification, never operated successfully despite the $7.5 billion spent on it – – including almost a half a billion dollars in grants from DOE.
Given the murky history of both energy chiefs, the Climate Investigations Center yesterday filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding that DOE immediately release all travel records for Perry, Moniz and Moniz’s predecessor, Steven Chu, also a Kemper booster.
The Perry flap centers around a series of trips beginning in May on either government aircraft on loan to DOE or private charters, both of which are more costly than commercial flights.
The Houston Chronicle published a hundred pages of internal government documents early last week detailing five trips at issue between May 9th and September 28th of this year. Two involved an Air Force C-21, the military version of the eight-passenger Lear 35A business jet, the third a government-owned Gulfstream IV, a much larger business aircraft holding 19 passengers, the fourth a government Beechcraft B-350 turboprop carrying 11 passengers, and the fifth a commercially chartered Cessna Citation II, another small business jet.
The size of the Perry contingent varied from five to eight people, including Perry.
Exactly how Moniz jetted to Turkey and other foreign countries is yet to be divulged. But even Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning, who accompanied Moniz on visits to Istanbul and elsewhere, admitted in an interview with this reporter in August 2016 that they spent a lot of time on the road together.
“He and I are kind of a tag team.” Fanning said.
Moniz is still a vigorous proponent of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology despite the costly failure of Southern’s Kemper plant in eastern Mississippi, appearing recently before a congressional committee to push for a bill that would increase and extend tax credits for CCS, despite its documented history of explosive “blow-outs” of dangerous CO2 gas in old oil fields that use CO2 to produce more oil, and the massive build-out required to criss-cross the country with pipelines carrying CO2 from the power plants and factories that produce it to oil fields and underground sequestration sites. Critics note that building such a pipeline and injection system would mean a Herculean feat of construction rivaling that accomplished over a period of many decades in laying out our existing petroleum pipeline network.
While energy secretary, Moniz didn’t seem to mind that Southern officials, who spent years trying to get coal-dependent countries like South Korea and Poland to license Kemper’s coal gasification CCS technology, often made it sound like the plant was actually a functioning example of a power plant capturing carbon when in fact Kemper never came close to using “clean coal” to produce electricity and sequester CO2.
The unusually chummy relationship between Fanning and Moniz may have been a big reason for that.