When I see something like this on The Hill’s website, my curiosity is definitely piqued because, knowing how the game works, this simply makes no sense. What “screams” at me is that there is definitely something else going on. Dan Poneman was an official at the Department of Energy. He left that position and went to work at Harvard. Five months later, he’s tapped as CEO of Centrus Energy. Essentially, we either have a backstory related to the new deal with Iran or we have a backstory related to oil. Or Israel. Or all of the above.
On the face of it we have two Republicans, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo) who have strongly opposed the Obama Administration’s deal with Iran regarding their development of nuclear weapons and the lifting of sanctions proposed by Obama. These two Republicans are now launching a potentially unrelated investigation into the employment of a former Department of Energy official by a corporation involved in uranium enrichment. Such an employment announcement between the DOE and the energy industry is both a) normal and b) oddly expected.
So here is a sample of Chaffetz’ comments about Iran, which are extremely strong, saying that he’d prefer to just start a war with Iran and straighten them out right away. And Lummis is similarly outspoken against any deal with Iran, falling strongly on the side of Israel and very much against any type of engagement with Iran, as well. So they have THAT in common. What is so strange about them opening an investigation into Poneman going to work as the CEO of Centrus Energy is that no one assumes that there is even the slightest shred of a MEMBRANE separating the DOE and the energy industry that it is supposed to be regulating and overseeing. You couldn’t even find the slightest delineation between DOE and, say, ExxonMobil or Statoil if you tried. The fossil fuel industry has literally got advisors INSIDE Energy’s offices.
For an example of such insanity, just go to the National Petroleum Council’s website and you can see how CEO’s from every major (and even non-American) oil company are explicit ADVISORS to the US government’s Department of Energy. on issues related to energy policy. I have written extensively about this. NPC brags that 75% of their recommendations are adopted by the Department of Energy, at the very least. Indeed, just go to the NPC website, click on “About NPC” on the upper left hand corner and voila —
There you have the Secretary of Energy sharing the “billing” with Darth Vadar himself, Rex Tillerson of ExxonMobil.
My point here is that the intermingling of the Department of Energy with virtually every aspect of the oil, gas, and energy industry, at the least, is extremely well-known, well-documented and not even the slightest bit of a “secret” or scandalous. Heck, I’d go so far as to say that it’s EXPECTED. People go back and forth, freely, between government and corporate positions. For Congress and our policymakers, this inbreeding seems natural and acceptable. It’s only for us “normal people” that the whole thing is beyond inappropriate, irresponsible and unacceptable.
So, Dan Poneman goes to work for Centrus Energy, a corporation that works with uranium enrichment, after leaving the Department of Energy. So what? Why the big call for an investigation and other such brouhaha by these two Republicans? I dunno. The facts are:
- Bobblehead Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has worked with President Obama to secure the new Iran deal (Moniz, despite appearing like said bobble head, is a nuclear physicist), so maybe the two Republicans lobbing charges against Moniz’ buddy, Poneman, want to get back at him, you know, a la the second grade;
Centrus Energy, which was previously known as the United States Enrichment Corporation, has a muddled and ugly history, but also has a place in future American security strategy:
The Department of Energy/Obama’s deal with Iran is going to further drive down oil prices. Chaffetz and Lummis take sizable donations from the fossil fuel industry and that makes them heartily opposed to lifting sanctions on Iran.
Here’s the unknown: Does Centrus Energy have a place or role in this Iran deal which makes angry Republicans want to publicly spank them? Centrus may stand to gain from these negotiations, as a lot of Iran’s nuclear material is slated to be carted “off country.” Does that mean that Centrus is a participant, and therefore deserves punishment? According to State Department press releases regarding the Iran deal, a lot of Iran’s low enriched uranium gets hauled out of their country (explicit in this new agreement) and will go to Russia for safekeeping. And according to a long standing agreement between Centrus and Russia, there is some nuclear give and take, with Russia’s excess nuclear material coming here.
I spent hours trying to figure out what the connection was. It’s probably too soon to know as the entire agreement has not been made public. Time will surely tell. Thanks to Al Gore and this newfangled thing called the internet.