Steven Chu, Obama's Choice For Secretary Of Energy 2

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 11 Dec 2008 16:29:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Steven ChuPresident-elect Barack Obama’s reported selection of Dr. Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy is a bold stroke to set the nation on the path to a clean energy economy. Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, is the sixth director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a Department of Energy-funded basic science research institution managed by the University of California. After moving to Berkeley Lab from Stanford University in 2004, Chu “has emerged internationally to champion science as society’s best defense against climate catastrophe.” As director, Chu has steered the direction of Berkeley Lab to addressing the climate crisis, pushing for breakthrough research in energy efficiency, solar energy, and biofuels technology.

At Berkeley Lab, Chu has won broad praise as an effective and inspirational leader. “When he was first here, he started giving talks about energy and production of energy,” Bob Jacobsen, a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2007. “He didn’t just present a problem. He told us what we could do. It was an energizing thing to see. He’s not a manager, he’s a leader.” In an interview with the Wonk Room, David Roland-Holst, an economist at the Center for Energy, Resources and Economic Sustainability at UC Berkeley, described Chu as a “very distinguished researcher” and “an extremely effective manager of cutting edge technology initiatives.” Roland-Holst praised Chu’s work at Lawrence Berkeley, saying “he has succeeded in reconfiguring it for a new generation of sustainable technology R&D, combining world class mainstream science with the latest initiatives in renewable energy and climate adaptation.”

Under Chu’s leadership, Berkeley Lab and other research institutions have founded the Energy Biosciences Institute with $500 million, ten-year grant from energy giant BP, and the Joint BioEnergy Institute with a $125 million grant from the Department of Energy. The BP deal has raised questions and protests about private corporations benefiting from public research. At the dedication of JBEI last Wednesday, Chu “recalled how the nation’s top scientists had rallied in the past to meet critical national needs, citing the development of radar and the atomic bomb during World War II”:
The reality of past threats was apparent to everyone whereas the threat of global climate change is not so immediately apparent. Nonetheless, this threat has just got to be solved. We can’t fail. The fact that we have so many brilliant people working on the problem gives me great hope.

Chu’s leadership extends beyond this nation’s boundaries. As one of the 30 members of the Copenhagen Climate Council, Chu is part of an effort to spur the international community to have the “urgency to establish a global treaty by 2012 which is fit for the purpose of limiting global warming to 2ºC,” whose elements “must be agreed” at the Copenhagen summit in December, 2009.

Last year, Dr. Chu co-chaired a report on “the scientific consensus framework for directing global energy development” for the United Nations’ InterAcademy Council. Lighting the Way describes how developing nations can “‘leapfrog’ past the wasteful energy trajectory followed by today’s industrialized nations” by emphasizing energy efficiency and renewable energy.

It’s hard to decide if the selection of Dr. Chu is more remarkable for who he is – a Nobel laureate physicist and experienced public-sector administrator – or for who is not. Unlike previous secretaries of energy, he is neither a politician, oil man, military officer, lawyer, nor utility executive. His corporate ties are not to major industrial polluters but to advanced technology corporations like AT&T (where he began his Nobel-winning research) and Silicon Valley innovator Nvidia (where he sits on the board of directors). Chu is a man for the moment, and will be a singular addition to Obama’s Cabinet.

Energy Secretary Contender Dr. Steven Chu: Transform the Energy Landscape to Save 'A Beautiful Planet' 4

Posted by Wonk Room Mon, 08 Dec 2008 14:09:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

The Washington Post’s Al Kamen reports that there’s “buzz” that the Obama transition is “looking hard at some scientific types” to lead the Energy Department. Dr. Steven Chu, the Nobel laureate director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is reportedly a dark horse candidate.

In a presentation at this summer’s National Clean Energy Summit convened by the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), and the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Dr. Chu described why he has moved from his background in experimental quantum physics to tackling global warming:

Consider this. There’s about a 50 percent chance, the climate experts tell us, that in this century we will go up in temperature by three degrees Centigrade. Now, three degrees Centigrade doesn’t seem a lot to you, that’s 11° F. Chicago changes by 30° F in half a day. But 5° C means that … it’s the difference between where we are today and where we were in the last ice age. What did that mean? Canada, the United States down to Ohio and Pennsylvania, was covered in ice year round.

Five degrees Centigrade.

So think about what 5° C will mean going the other way. A very different world. So if you’d want that for your kids and grandkids, we can continue what we’re doing. Climate change of that scale will cause enormous resource wars, over water, arable land, and massive population displacements. We’re not talking about ten thousand people. We’re not talking about ten million people, we’re talking about hundreds of millions to billions of people being flooded out, permanently.

As Dr. Chu explains in the above video, the optimal way to reduce greenhouse emissions is to waste less energy, by investing in energy efficiency. He demolished the myth that we can’t reduce our use of energy without reducing our wealth by offering numerous counterexamples, or, in his scientist’s jargon, “existence proofs.” Applause broke out when he described how companies, after claiming efficiency gains and lowered costs were impossible, “miraculously” achieved them once they “had to assign the jobs from the lobbyists to the engineers.”

Chu continued by discussing what he has done to develop “new technologies to transform the landscape.” He discussed the Helios Project, the research initiative Berkeley Lab launched for breakthrough renewable energy and efficiency technology. In addition to research into energy conservation, Berkeley Lab researchers are pursuing nanotech photovoltaics, microbial and cellulosic biofuels, and chemical photosynthesis.

Dr. Chu concluded his address with a reminder why this challenge is so important:

I will leave you with this final image. This is – I was an undergraduate when this picture was taken by Apollo 8 – and it shows the moon and the Earth’s rise. A beautiful planet, a desolate moon. And focus on the fact that there’s nowhere else to go.
Earthrise

In Draft of Greenhouse Gases Regulations, Bush Administration Attacks Clean Air Act 7

Posted by Wonk Room Fri, 11 Jul 2008 19:38:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Stephen Johnson and President BushAfter over a year of battles with the White House and other federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency has published its response to the April 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, which mandated that the agency determine whether greenhouse gases pose a threat to our health and welfare and take action in response. With today’s publication of an “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson ignores the threat and attacks the rule of law.

Johnson published his staff’s document – after extensive cuts from the White House – with complaints attached from the White House Office of Management and Budget, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Energy.

In one voice, the other agencies attack the use of the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases as “deeply flawed and unsuitable,” “fundamentally ill-suited,” “extraordinarily intrusive and burdensome,” “unilateral and extraordinarily burdensome,” “drastic,” “dramatic,” “excessive,” “extremely expensive,” and “costly and burdensome.” The clear and present threat of global warming is dismissed as a “complex” issue that hinges on “interpretation of statutory terms.”

Sadly, Johnson decided to join them, attacking the immense work done by his staff to address the catastrophic threat of climate change:
I believe the ANPR demonstrates the Clean Air Act, an outdated law originally enacted to control regional pollutants that cause direct health effects, is ill-suited for the task of regulating global greenhouse gases.

In his press conference announcing the release of today’s decision, Johnson reiterated his opinion that the Clean Air Act is the “wrong tool” for the task, “trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.”

This is yet another case where Johnson is following the example of the likes of disgraced former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who made similar statements about the Geneva Conventions’ ban on torture as White House Counsel:
As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war. The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians. In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.
Similarly, the White House’s arguments in defense of ignoring the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s ban on warrantless wiretapping:
Reverting to the outdated FISA statute risks our national security. FISA’s outdated provisions created dangerous intelligence gaps, which is why Congress passed the Protect America Act in the first place.

George W. Bush, Stephen Johnson, and the other officers of the executive branch swore an oath to “faithfully execute” their office and defend the Constitution. They have evidently decided to break that vow, time and again. In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of the Bush administration, it’s always the “quaint,” “outdated,” “burdensome,” and “ill-suited” laws that are the problem—never their reckless abandonment of principle and duty.

Oversight of the Bush Administration’s Energy Policy 1

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 22 May 2008 13:30:00 GMT

As oil and gas hit new records above $128 a barrel and $3.78 this week, many analysts are predicting even further increases in the price of gasoline as we edge towards the travel months of summer. To explore the Bush administration’s contributions to this energy crisis and the administration’s refusal to respond, Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming announced today that Secretary of Energy Stephen Bodman will testify before the Committee on Thursday, May 22, as Americans prepare for the Memorial Day weekend, the beginning of the summer driving season.

Chairman Markey will also seek answers from Secretary Bodman on why the Bush administration continues to defend $18 billion in tax breaks to the top five most profitable oil companies that House Democrats want to redirect to fund renewable energy that could help consumers.

Witness
  • Samuel Bodman, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy

Nominations of Kameran L. Onley, of Washington, to be an Assistant Secretary of the Interior and Jeffrey F. Kupfer, of Maryland, to be Deputy Secretary of Energy 6

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 30 Apr 2008 19:30:00 GMT

E&E News:
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider a pair of Bush administration nominees for posts at the Interior and Energy departments, both of which have already been serving in those positions for months on an acting basis.

Jeffrey Kupfer is nominated to be DOE’s deputy secretary, the No. 2 position at the department. Kupfer is already serving on an acting basis, replacing Clay Sell, who left the department at the end of February.

Kupfer previously served as chief of staff for Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. Before that, he served as a special assistant to the president for economic policy at the White House and earlier as executive director of the President’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform.

During the first half of the decade, Kupfer held several positions at the Treasury Department, and the Harvard-educated lawyer has also worked on Capitol Hill as counsel for multiple committees. Interior water and science

At Interior, Kameran Onley would become assistant secretary for water and science. She has been doing that job since July, while also serving as assistant deputy secretary since January 2006.

She previously served as a special assistant to the chairman of the White House Counsel on Environmental Quality. Onley led the policy group that produced Bush’s Ocean Action Plan, an interagency effort to enhance leadership and coordination on ocean management.

At Interior, Onley has led the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and co-chaired the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. She also served as the lead Interior official in the management of the new Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii.

Prior to joining the Bush administration, Onley was an associate director at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. She earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Seattle University and a master’s in agricultural economics from Clemson University.

FY 2009 Department of Energy Budget 10

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 16 Apr 2008 18:00:00 GMT

FY 2009 Department of Energy Budget

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 02 Apr 2008 13:30:00 GMT

Witnesses
  • Raymond Orbach, Under Secretary for Science, Department of Energy
  • Alexander Karsner, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy
  • David Frantz, Director, Office of Loan Guarantees, Department of Energy

Ben Geman reports for E&E News:

DOE: Loan guarantee program advancing, official tells Senate panel (04/03/2008) Ben Geman, E&E Daily senior reporter

A high-level Energy Department official assured lawmakers yesterday that the department is making progress on a “clean energy” loan guarantee program and expects to begin receiving the first full applications this month.

David Frantz, who heads the loan guarantee office, also told a Senate Appropriations panel that DOE plans to issue the solicitation for the next round of projects within months.

Congress last year required DOE to provide House and Senate appropriators a loan guarantee implementation plan to define award levels and eligible technologies at least 45 days before a new solicitation. Lawmakers should receive this plan later this month, Franz told the Senate Energy and Water Subcommittee.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized federal loan guarantees for low-emissions energy facilities such as new nuclear plants, renewable energy projects, carbon sequestration and other technologies. But lawmakers - notably Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) - say the program has been slow getting off the ground.

Frantz said DOE is on the cusp of receiving full applications from some of the first 16 projects the department is considering and expects them to come in over the next several months. These projects include integrated gasification combined cycle power plants, solar energy projects, cellulosic ethanol plants, a hydrogen fuel cell project and others. DOE hopes to begin issuing the first guarantees this year.

Nuclear power plant developers are eager to receive the federal loan backing and see the program as a crucial way to get a much-anticipated wave of plants off the ground after a decades-long lull in new nuclear construction.

But loan guarantees for nuclear plants are on a longer time frame. Frantz told reporters it is not clear whether nuclear will be one of the technologies included in the next solicitation. “It is still very much in the planning stage, and we have not made a final determination,” he said after the hearing.

The omnibus fiscal 2008 appropriations bill provides DOE with authority to issue $38.5 billion worth of loan guarantees through the end of fiscal 2009, including $18.5 billion for nuclear power projects. The department already had an additional $4 billion in loan guarantee authority through prior legislation.

But DOE, as part of the current budget proposal, is asking lawmakers to extend this time frame through fiscal 2011 for nuclear power projects and fiscal 2010 for other projects. Franz called the extension “absolutely essential.”

“It takes us months and years on these larger projects to do our credit underwriting and due diligence process,” he told reporters.

Frantz said he envisioned the $18.5 billion in loan guarantee authority for nuclear plants would cover guarantees for three to four projects. The program allows the federal government to issue guarantees for loans that cover up to 80 percent of a project’s cost—a federal backstop that is designed to help energy project developers secure Wall Street financing.

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) urged Frantz to move quickly in implementing the loan program. “I hope that you have running shoes on,” he said.

Suboleski Nomination Withdrawn 4

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 27 Feb 2008 21:27:00 GMT

Former Massey Energy executive Stanley Suboleski, who was nominated by the president to be the Department of Energy assistant secretary for fossil energy, was scheduled for his nomination hearing before the Senate today. The Office of Fossil Energy funds advanced coal technology efforts and recently received fire for discontinuing the FutureGen coal-tech initiative.

E&E News reports that the White House withdrew his nomination last night, saying that Suboleski asked to be withdrawn “for personal reasons” Monday afternoon.

JW Randolph, Appalachian Voices Legislative Associate, made the following statement before his withdrawal was made public:
In 2000 in Martin County Kentucky, despite repeated warnings about the serious violations where the impoudment broke, Massey Energy was responsible for a slurry spill that was 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster. The EPA called it the “worst environmental disaster in the history of the Southeast.” Massey called it “an Act of God.”

Now, President Bush wants to promote a Massey Executive to “Assistant Secretary of Energy (fossil energy).” While we are extremely disappointed, we can’t act as though we are surprised. The promotion of Stanley Suboeski is consistent with the Bush Administration’s vigorous efforts to remove every shred of responsibility and decency from the process of extracting coal, ignoring the human cost at every turn.

By promoting mountaintop removal mining, the Bush Administration and Massey Energy have transferred the dangers inherent in coal-mining from the professional miners doing the work onto the surrounding civilian communnities who now have to deal daily with fly rock, poisoned water, and toxic coal waste. Putting Stan Suboleski at the top of the fossil energy food chain is yet another reckless example of the President rewarding his friends and contributors in the fossil fuel industry, and ignoring the true cost of coal to the people in the Appalachian region.

The nominations of Stanley C. Suboleski, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy (Fossil Energy), and J. Gregory Copeland, of Texas, to be General Counsel, both of the Department of Energy 6

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 27 Feb 2008 14:45:00 GMT

The White House withdrew Stanley Suboleski’s nomination the night before the hearing, saying that Suboleski asked for his nomination to be withdrawn “for personal reasons” Monday afternoon.

FY 2009 Department of Energy Budget 3

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 07 Feb 2008 15:00:00 GMT

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