As Mr. Moniz assumes the reigns of the DOE there are several pressing issues that he will need to address in a short time. Some priority issues that will present challenges to the new energy secretary include ensuring the department addresses my core concerns in four key areas: 1) providing safe, reliable and affordable energy for all Americans; 2) opening up employment and economic opportunities for all segments of the population; 3) enacting policies to address climate change; 4) steering us towards energy independence over the course of the next few decades. 

I believe in a truly ‘all of the above’ energy policy that includes oil, natural gas, nuclear and clean coal, as well as a greater reliance on clean and renewable sources of energy, as we steer away from a heavy dependence on carbon-intense fossil fuels that contribute heavily to climate change. The new energy secretary must work with Congress to find the right balance between environmental regulations that protect our air and our water, while also ensuring that the economic opportunities that exist in the energy industry are open to all Americans. 

The new head of the DOE must provide support and leadership in promoting STEM education in K-12, as well as in our higher education system so that we are training the next generation of scientists and engineers to lead us into the future. I personally will work with the new secretary to ensure that his agency is providing support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Predominantly Black Institutions in order to raise awareness and steer more women and minorities into the STEM fields.  

Besides focusing on STEM education, I also look forward to sitting down with the Mr. Moniz  to discuss my priority of increasing opportunities for minorities in all aspects of the energy sector. 

I will work with the new secretary to find ways to support my efforts of increasing minority participation in the construction, operation, and ownership of pipelines, as well as boosting minority participation in both upstream and downstream contracting and subcontracting opportunities in the oil, gas, and renewable industries.

While there will be tremendous opportunity within the energy field over the next few years, there are also some challenges that we must address. Climate change is real and the new energy secretary must work with Congress to provide leadership in combating this issue. All across America we have seen an uptick in extreme weather events associated with global climate change and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States set more than 40,000 hot temperature records in 2012, which was the hottest year ever recorded in U.S. history.  

Millions of Americans experienced extreme heat advisories in 2012 and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared a federal disaster area in more than 1,000 counties covering 26 states, making it the largest disaster declaration ever made by the agency. Last year, fully two-thirds of the country experienced drought, with states from Kentucky to the Midwest facing severe losses of corn and other crops due to the lack of rain. In fact, at least half of the nation's grazing pastures and up to thirty percent of the nation's corn crop was in poor or very poor condition, impacting the price of food, consumer goods, and ethanol. Additionally, dry conditions took a toll on the Great Lakes where water levels in four of the five lakes plummeted last summer due to high evaporation rates and insufficient rainfall. This, in turn, posed significant challenges for those of us who rely on the lakes for drinking water and other economic activities.

So the challenges that the new energy secretary faces are significant and I look forward to working with him to enact policies and solutions that will help move America forward. For with these challenges come substantial opportunities and in my opinion no industry will play a larger role in helping to get our economy back on track than what we will see in the energy sector. With the right policies from Congress and leadership from the DOE I have no doubt that we can both face the challenges of protecting our environment while also providing significant employment and economic opportunities for all Americans within our energy sector.  

Rush is the ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power.