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Obama Announces Green Team

President-elect Barack Obama named the four leaders of his energy and environmental team at a press conference in Chicago this evening, pledging “a new hybrid economy” and “an era of innovation.”

The Nobel Prize-winning Berkeley physicist Steven Chu will serve as the secretary of energy. Environmental advocates have praised his anticipated selection as a sign that science, not business interests, will drive Obama’s energy policy. Obama confirmed this notion by stating that Chu’s appointment “should send a signal to all that my administration will value science.”

Chu will be accompanied by Lisa Jackson as the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Nancy Sutley as the chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality and Carol Browner as the so-called “energy czar,” a new position that Obama said would promote “integration among different agencies.”

Jackson undertook ambitious efforts to curb emissions in her three years as the commissioner of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection — although a drive down the Turnpike might say otherwise — and she now serves as Gov. Jon Corzine’s chief of staff. She will be the first African-American EPA chief.

Sutley, who currently serves as the deputy mayor of Los Angeles, is the first openly gay appointee in the Obama administration. Like Jackson, she supported Hillary Clinton in the primary campaign.

Browner was the longest-serving EPA chief in history under Bill Clinton. She is currently the chair of the Audubon Society.

Obama emphasized that his administration will promote his environmental agenda as a means to economic growth, through the creation of 2.5 million green jobs and enhanced efficiency, rather than an impediment. “There is not a contradiction between economic growth and sound environmental practices,” he said.

Vice President-elect Joe Biden spoke briefly and stated that he would also play a prominent role in the country’s energy policies. “The office of the vice president will no longer be an obstacle to environmental protection,” he said. “It will be a force for leaping ahead.”

When the floor opened to questions, the conversation inevitably turned to the Blagojevich scandal. Obama reiterated that he was not involved.

“I had no contact with the governor’s office,” he said, “and I had no contact with anyone in the governor’s office.” He said that his team has produced a report on the interaction between the Obama transition office and Blagojevich’s circle, and that “there was nothing in the report that contradicted my earlier statements.” Obama said the report has not yet been released because of the state of the federal investigation.

Despite the tail-end question about Blago, today’s event focussed largely on the green team’s hopes for the future. For a taste of the creative solutions Chu hopes to bring to the country’s energy problems, take a look at his address to the National Energy Summit this summer:

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