Sources: Obama to tap Chu for energy post

December 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A Nobel Prize winner from the Bay Area is likely headed to Washington to lead the nation's energy policy. Sources say President-elect Barack Obama has chosen physicist Steven Chu for Energy Secretary. Chu is director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Steven Chu was unavailable for comment. He is in London and won't be back until Monday. But academics and lawmakers concerned about global warming are excited. They believe the nation's energy policy is now headed in the right direction.

It was just a week ago Stephen Chu was at a dedication ceremony for the Joint BioEnergy Institute -- a new department of energy laboratory.

"The Department of Energy has a glorious future ahead because it will provide many of the solutions that the world will need," said Chu.

It's unclear whether Chu knew of his impending nomination at the time of the event. Several sources confirm the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab is the President-elect's choice for energy secretary. East Bay Congressman Jerry McNerney (D) of Pleasanton, a new member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says Chu is the perfect choice.

"Mr. Chu is one person who really understands how basic research can be used to help solve our energy problems," said McNerney.

Chu won the Nobel Prize in physics 11 years ago for his work on super cooled atoms. He became director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab seven years later, where he since been an advocate of controlling greenhouse gases, sponsoring research in biofuels and solar energy.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has worked with Chu on the city's climate action plan.

"Steven Chu is absolutely dedicated in getting us off fossil fuel and other sources of energy for this country. And he knows, because I've heard him express it a number of times, he knows we got to make these changes," said Mayor Bates.

But does Chu have the temperament and personality to thrive in Washington? Stanford professor Stephen Schneider Ph.D., certainly thinks so.

"It's amazing what a Nobel Prize does to intimidate people in the neighborhood who might be blowhards. And I have never seen Steve Chu aggressively impolite nor have I seen him back away from people who say foolish things," said Schneider.

Rounding out the President-elect's energy team is former EPA Chief Carol Browner. She's expected to become Mr. Obama's energy czar, a newly-created position. Lisa Jackson has been picked to head the Environmental Protection Agency and is the first African-American to hold that post. Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Nancy Sutley will lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, becoming the highest ranking government official who is openly gay.

Still unclear is whom Obama will tap for interior secretary.


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