FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

Steven Chu to be Next Secretary of Energy

Richard M. Jones
Number 118 - December 16, 2008  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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At 5:00 p.m. yesterday President-Elect Barack Obama announced that he will nominate Steven Chu, currently director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be the next Secretary of Energy. In making this announcement, Obama said:

"Dr. Steven Chu is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who has been working at the cutting edge of our nation’s effort to develop new and cleaner forms of energy. He blazed new trails as a scientist, teacher, and administrator, and has recently led the Berkeley National Laboratory in pursuit of new alternative and renewable energies. Steven is uniquely suited to be our next Secretary of Energy as we make this pursuit a guiding purpose of the Department of Energy, as well as a national mission. The scientists at our national labs will have a distinguished peer at the helm. His appointment should send a signal to all that my Administration will value science, we will make decisions based on the facts, and we understand that the facts demand bold action."

This announcement was praised by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). A confirmation hearing for Chu will be held by this committee. Yesterday Bingaman released the following statement:

“This past October, I got to spend the better part of a day with Dr. Steven Chu at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, discussing energy research and technology frontiers. I was impressed with his knowledge and insights, and the leadership he has provided at the Laboratory. I support President-Elect Obama’s choice of him, and I look forward to working with Dr. Chu as he takes on the responsibilities of Secretary of Energy at a pivotal time for our nation’s energy policy.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) voiced his strong support of the nomination:

"Steven Chu is an extremely accomplished scientist and strong choice to lead America into a more energy-independent future. He has shown that he can work beyond the confines of a national lab to tackle real-world issues, and his expertise will greatly benefit our country.

"I have been impressed by his command and understanding of the serious energy and global warming problems we face, which is why I brought him to the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas this summer. I am confident that Dr. Chu will transform the Department of Energy into a smart and progressive weapon against our addiction to oil, making our economy vastly more energy efficient and bringing about a safer future.

"Dr. Chu also knows, like most Nevadans, that Yucca Mountain is not a viable solution for dumping and dealing with nuclear waste.

"I look forward to confirming Dr. Chu as quickly as possible."

The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, to which the American Institute of Physics and the American Physical Society belong, commented as follows:

"The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation congratulates President-elect Obama on his choice of Dr. Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy. In addition to his extraordinary scientific achievements, Dr. Chu has demonstrated outstanding management and leadership skills as Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"Dr. Chu is a strong advocate of enhancing and coordinating the federal investment in the Office of Science and other critical research offices at DOE. This investment and the coordination of these offices are essential for meeting our energy security and environmental challenges.

"Moreover, as a member of the committee that wrote the National Academies’ 'Rising Above the Gathering Storm,' Dr. Chu understands that DOE basic research, as well as basic research at such agencies as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is essential to maintaining our innovation edge. With the nation working to recover from recession and chart a path to long-term economic growth, no investment is more important in the long run than basic research.

"President-elect Obama has been a strong advocate of this investment, as well, and we look forward to working with his administration and the new Congress to help restore our nation’s economic strength and maintain our global economic leadership."

Chu appeared at a Task Force event in September to highlight the importance of basic research to solving the nation's energy needs. Selections from his presentation appeared in FYI #94.

The confirmation hearing for the current Secretary of Energy, Samuel Bodman, was held the day before President Bush's second inauguration in January 2005. This two-hour hearing went very smoothly, with most of the questions from the members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee centering on energy-related issues. In commenting on the Chu Nomination, Secretary Bodman said yesterday:

“The United States is faced with a series of challenges critical to its long-term energy and national security. Over the past four years, the U.S. Department of Energy has worked to ensure the availability of clean, diverse, and affordable energy supplies; to safeguard the nation’s nuclear stockpile and support national security efforts; to restore and rehabilitate this country’s Cold War legacy sites; and to maintain America’s status as the world’s leader in science and technology.

“To do all this and to do it safely is a task of considerable difficulty. So I am pleased to learn that President-elect Obama has selected Dr. Steven Chu to lead the Department. As the Director of the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Dr. Chu understands the significance of our energy and environmental challenges, and more importantly, understands the technical solutions necessary to address them. He is also aware of the vital role that DOE plays in matters of energy and national security and appreciates the necessity of the Department’s voice on these matters. I fully expect the Department to continue as the leader of scientific funding and alternative energy technology development in the next Administration.

“I have worked with Dr. Chu for the past four years, and I hold him in the highest regard. I am confident he will provide the Department with the necessary leadership, vision, and expertise we need to continue to fulfill our mission.”

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095