President Obama’s rumored choice for Energy secretary is giving heartburn to some in the environmental movement.

Ernest Moniz, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and familiar presence in Washington, has emerged as the front-runner to replace Steven Chu as Obama’s energy chief.

That’s not sitting well with green advocates, who say Moniz’s support for natural gas is at odds with the risks of “fracking,” the controversial drilling process, and the need for tough steps to address climate change.

“Moniz is a status quo pick at a time when we can’t afford the status quo,” said Tyson Slocum, who heads the energy program at Public Citizen.

Sources tracking the selection process say Obama is leaning strongly toward picking Moniz, who served as undersecretary of Energy in the Clinton administration and currently directs the MIT Energy Initiative.

The Cabinet decision arrives at time when environmentalists are putting intense pressure on the president to confront global warming. They held a major rally last weekend in Washington, D.C., urging Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and take steps to reduce carbon emissions.

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