Steven Chu named U.S. Energy Secretary

December 15, 2008 6:51:51 PM PST
It is official.

President-elect Barack Obama introduced his energy team Monday and named a Bay Area Nobel Prize winner who also runs the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab to head the Department of Energy.

The rumor about physicist Steven Chu's nomination has been swirling for quite some time, but his lab colleagues still could not contain their excitement.

"With that, I'd like to invite my team to say a few words starting with Dr. Chu," said President-elect Obama Monday.

With those words Steven Chu's colleagues at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab erupted into cheers, watching their friend and boss take the podium alongside the President-elect.

The scientists who work with Chu had gathered to hear the announcement.

Since last week's reports about Chu's new job, the hallways at the lab have been filled with speculation and excitement. They could barely contain themselves Monday.

"We'll probably never get to see him so it probably won't do us much good. But, it's great to have. Steve's a really great leader and it'll be great to have him at the helm," said Associate Lab Director Jim Siegrist.

As Energy Secretary, Chu will have the daunting task of changing the way the country creates and uses energy.

"What the world does in the coming decade will have enormous consequences that will last for centuries," he said.

He won the Nobel Prize in physics 11 years ago and has run the Lawrence Berkeley Lab since 2004. Chu's built a reputation for being a strong advocate of curbing greenhouse gases and increasing research in alternative energy sources like biofuels and solar power.

"His appointment should send a signal to all that my administration will value science," said Obama.

That was exactly what the group wanted to hear.

Paul Alivisatos, the lab's second in command, said, "Steve has been a tireless advocate for research and also for action, on energy and environment and space, to deal with global warming."

Some have questioned whether a scientist is fit for a high-profile job traditionally held by political insiders. But, Berkeley physicist Richard Muller thinks Chu is perfect for the post.

"I think, quite frankly, we've had too much politics with regard to energy. It's time to get down to the science of it," he said.

If he is confirmed, Chu would be the country's first Asian American Energy Secretary.

And, it wasn't just his colleagues at the Berkeley National lab that were excited Monday about his nomination. Chu drew widespread praise from the Bay Area's congressional delegation, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who issued a statement Monday saying Obama had assembled an extraordinary green team.


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