Physicist Tops Obama’s List for Energy Secretary
CNN and The Huffington Post are reporting that President-elect Barack Obama is close to settling on Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as his pick for 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.
If confirmed, Chu would be the second academic Obama has tapped from UC Berkeley, after Christina D. Romer, an economics professor picked to head Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.
The choice would further confirm that Obama is serious about revolutionizing the nation’s energy policy, and he is willing to look outside of Washington to tap the nation’s top experts in their respective fields.
The strategy is not without risks, as being a good scientist does not necessarily make one a good policymaker. However, Chu’s position as the director of a prominent research laboratory suggests he has experience managing a bureaucracy.
Perhaps most important, the move would close the door on yet another tragic hallmark of the Bush era — in the Obama administration, science will direct America’s energy policy, not vice versa.