According to Reuters, the White House is considering Ernest Moniz to replace outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Moniz was undersecretary at the Energy Department during the Clinton administration and is currently director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative, an industry-funded group that does research into mitigating greenhouse gases.

In that capacity Moniz has been an advocate of natural gas, which is cleaner-burning than other carbon-based fuels, as a “bridge fuel” to a renewable energy future. Reuters notes:

In July 2011, Moniz told the Senate Energy committee that he believes the water and air pollution risks associated with hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” were “challenging but manageable” with appropriate regulation and oversight.

While not exactly full-throated support for the process, it indicates that the administration will retain open to it. Outgoing EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has also backed expanding exploration for natural gas through fracking, albeit cautiously.

This has angered some environmental activists, who are urging that that President Obama reject Moniz due to his comments on fracking.  These groups oppose fracking because they fear the cheap natural gas will undermine efforts to promote renewable energy like wind and solar.

See my column on the fracking debate, “How to set your tapwater — and pants — on fire” here.