Promising Frontrunner for Energy Secretary

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Dec 10, 2008 at 15:32

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.

Chris Bowers :: Promising Frontrunner for Energy Secretary

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Agreed, but... (0.00 / 0)
WSJ is saying it looks like it's going to be Granholm.

I don't know enough about her to know how she would compare to Chu, but she's no scientist.  

Also says Browner as Energy Czar (0.00 / 0)
Not thrilled about that. At all.  

[ Parent ]
Apparently WSJ was wrong (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
Oh man that would be awesome (4.00 / 1)
Imagine energy policy being set by someone with a lifetime of experience the field.  And not as an oil lobbyist!

It makes me happy to contemplate, and it makes me sad that I'm so surprised.

Which is not a comment on Obama (4.00 / 2)
But rather on the history of the U.S. Government.

[ Parent ]
I find Sutley's emphasis on biofuels really disappointing. (4.00 / 1)
Given what's happened to global food prices of late and biofuels' tremendous inefficiency, it's a disheartening faux-solution.


i could get excited about this. (4.00 / 1)

A touch excited, are we? (0.00 / 0)
Shoot - if you are this excited about the possibility of a scientist in charge of Energy, Phil Plait must be wagging his tail and peeing all over the floor like a spaniel about it!


this would be awesome (4.00 / 2)
It also shouldn't come as a surprise. Obama ran to the center on defense and economic issues, so his centrist picks for his administration weren't surpising.

But he ran to the left on energy, so if he ends up appointing a centrist for DOE that would be a surprise of the worst sort.

Agree, but nevertheless... (4.00 / 1) is such a breath of fresh air that it is hard not to be a little giddy about it.

[ Parent ]
Bush just about killed off the national labs. (4.00 / 1)
At the very least, a Chu appointment would be a strong signal that Obama plans to revive them in a big way. But I assume Obama would make that a priority no matter who he names to Energy.

Breaking News on MSNBC (4.00 / 6)
Obama chooses Steven Chu as Energy Secretary

Beat me to this comment (4.00 / 1)
Post a Quick Hit...

There's a recommended diary with an interesting youtube embed poste at Kos on this selection.

John McCain won't insure children

[ Parent ]
Looks like MSNBC is reporting (4.00 / 2)
that this is a done deal.

Completely fantastic. I'm very happy with the way the energy and environment picks are shaping up as long as Thompson doesn't get the nod for Interior.  

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

More coming (4.00 / 2)
not to be announced this week but Daschle will be. Lisa Jackson will head EPA, Browner will be energy czar, Chu as Energy Secratary and Nancy Sutley as CEQ. No word on Interior.

All around great news for us. All are pretty solid progressives.  

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

Chu is on record as a carbon sequestration skeptic (4.00 / 4)
Quoted in this story:

The main concern with CCS [carbon capture and sequestration] is whether carbon stored inside empty aquifers would leak and pollute groundwater reserves. "If people think this is the solution, think again. A lot of research is needed," said Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at last week's "Summit on America's Energy Future," sponsored by the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering.

Wow (4.00 / 2)

Also Sutley will be the first openly gay chair of the CEQ. Very happy about this team.

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

[ Parent ]
genetically engineered biofuels (0.00 / 0)
It's encouraging that a qualified scientist is being considered.

But two problems I have with the pick: 1) his support for biofuels; 2) his support for genetic engineering of plants for biofuels.

Hopefully the building political opposition to biofuels will keep this (genetically modified) pig from flying.


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