If this comes to pass, mark it down in my "makes me excited" category of Obama's cabinet picks:
But officials close to the transition team privately say that Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, appears to be increasingly on track to become energy secretary.
A Chinese-American, Chu is a professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California-Berkeley and has been the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004, where he has pushed aggressively for research into alternative energy as a way to combat global warming.
It is the oldest of the Energy Department's national laboratories, but does only unclassified work and in recent years under Chu has been at the center of research into biofuels and solar technologies. Chu has been a strong advocate for the need to engage scientists in the search for ways to combat global warming by replacing fossil fuels with other energy sources such as biofuels and the sun.
Placing a scientist at the head of the Department of Energy is very exciting to me, because we will be dealing with a true expert on the subject matter. Further, it is not just any scientist, but the scientist at the center of solar and biofuel research, meaning that industry lobbyists won't stand a chance when talking to him. Yet further, it means that his closest colleagues will also be alternative energy scientists, thus resulting in some excellent deputies and assistants. Even yet further, having a physicist like this in the cabinet means there will be a true science and technology expert within the cabinet, which could bleed over into decisions in other areas. This is someone who will know what is possible in the field, and who should make an excellent contribution to the nation and the world.
Shawn in Show Me adds some more context on why this is a great potential pick:
If you look at the history of the Department of Energy, you'll find that there's never been a Secretary who actually was an expert on energy. The closest we've ever gotten was Charles Duncan who had a chemical engineering degree and had a cup of coffee out of school at Humble (later Exxon). For some reason it just never occurred to the President to install a person who was qualified for the position.
Instead we've been subjected to a long line of career politicians, military men and folks that were as far away from energy as you could get (Reagan's first Secretary of Energy was an oral surgeon) . Is it any wonder that our energy policy is set by industry since the person who is supposed to do that doesn't have a clue?
Not only does Chu have a clue, he's a Nobel-prize winning scientist and is already working under the auspices of the Department of Energy at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. A scientist, ya'll. As the Secretary of Energy. Oh. My. Gawd.
Steven Chu sounds like a great pick for Secretary of Energy to me. Hopefully, unlike Raul Grijalva for Interior, this one won't fall through in favor of a Blue Dog. There are other possibilities, and none of them can even come close to bringing the expertise of Chu.