Sen. Barrasso Places Hold on EPA Nominee Jackson Because of Browner 24

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 22 Jan 2009 13:13:00 GMT

Wishing to meet with President Obama’s White House energy and environment adviser Carol Browner, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) has delayed the nomination of Lisa Jackson to be Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator. He placed an anonymous objection to the unanimous consent resolution to move the nomination without a roll call vote on Tuesday, and raised his concerns with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.), chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, on Wednesday.

Barrasso spokesman Gregory Keeley tells E&E News:
The bottom line is Senator Barrasso is concerned about this new structure with an appointed energy czar in the White House with no accountability in the White House. Just about how that will operate. He wants to know that. He wants to ensure sufficient transparency and oversight. He wants to be convinced Congress will have the ability to get answers from the appointed czar, Carol Browner. At this stage, he’s not convinced that’s the case.

Yesterday, Browner participated in President Obama’s economic briefing, with National Economic Director Lawrence Summers, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag and White House Policy Council Director Melody Barnes.

Granta Nakayama, a Bush administration appointee, is the interim EPA administrator. According to E&E News, Nakayama “has been a noncontroversial figure since joining EPA as its top enforcement official in July 2005.”

UPDATE: E&E News reports that Granta Nakayama has resigned, with Mike Shapiro replacing him as interim EPA administrator.

Shapiro, 60, has previously been a senior official in the Office of Water, director of EPA’s Office of Solid Waste, and deputy assistant administrator in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, where he helped implement the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. He also has held positions in EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances.

Nomination of Steven Chu to be Secretary of Energy 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 13 Jan 2009 15:00:00 GMT

Witnesses
  • Steven Chu

10:14 Boxer: It’s an exciting day all over the hill.I believe the US must be a world leader in developing new energy technologies to protect the environment, to protect the health of our people, but more important to be a leader in the world. I think Obama has found that leader in Dr. Chu. Dr. Chu is uniquely qualified to be Secretary of Energy. Science must lead us. We have our man in Dr. Chu. I am so proud to be here with Sen. Feinstein to introduce a candidate from our home state of California.

10:18 Bingaman: Swears in Dr. Chu. I’ll ask three questions: Will you be available to this committee and other committees?

Chu: Yes.

Bingaman: Are you aware of any conflicts of interest should you be confirmed?

Chu: All of my personal assets have been reviewed with conflict of interest and I have taken appropriate action to avoid conflicts of interest.

Do you have any assets held in a blind trust?

Chu: No.

Chu: Joining me is my wife Jean Chu and my brother Morgan Chu. Climate change represents a clear and growing threat. We must make a change to a new energy economy. In many ways, Obama’s plan builds on the work of this committee: renewable energy, energy efficiency, efficient cars and trucks, CCS, a continued commitment to nuclear power, responsible oil and gas development, a smarter electrical grid, and a cap and trade system to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

I’ve moved the focus of my lab to the problem of climate change.

The work of the National Nuclear Security Administration is critical for our national security. I take this work very seriously. I will work towards the vision of a world without nuclear weapons. I pledge I will do my best to accelerate cleanup of contaminated lands. I’m a proud member of the commission that generated the report Rising Above the Gathering Storm. As the largest supporter of the physical sciences in America, DOE plays a critical role in our future economic prosperity.

If the department is to meet the challenges ahead, it must operate more efficiently and effectively. I do not underestimate the difficulty of meeting these challenges, but I believe we can meet them. I commit I will provide strong, energetic, focused leadership, and I look forward to close collaboration with this committee. The challenges we face will require bipartisan effort.

Bingaman: The development of this massive economic recovery bill. The expectation is that it will contain tens of billions of dollars for grid modernization, energy efficiency. There’s been a lot of frustration in this committee for the time it’s taken to implement what we’ve already enacted. For example, the loan guarantee program in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Chu: I share your concerns. During my tenure at Lawrence Berkeley I spent 3/4 of my time in operations. We have to move rapidly.

Bingaman: The new org charts. The new White House coordinator for climate and energy policy. How does this affect your role? Will you be able to be a strong voice on climate and energy issues?

Chu: The President-elect, when he chose to establish this office it shows how important he sees this issue. The country’s energy and climate change future is very important. I look forward to working closely with Ms. Browner. She has a very difficult task ahead of her. I’m looking forward to working with her. I think it will be a collaborative and close cooperation.

10:33 Murkowski: I particularly appreciate the words about the importance of education. I also think that within the Department of Education (sic) is how we educate the rest of the nation. I hope you appreciate that is a big challenge. Domestic oil and gas production. Last year the President removed the presidential moratorium and then Congress let a similar ban expire. I agree that we should focus on conservation and renewable energy sources. Will you join us in opposing the reinstatement of the bans?

Chu: Responsible production is part of a larger energy policy. Reserves of the United States are perhaps 3% of world’s reserves. While it is important to fold in production, we have to keep in mind these numbers. More efficient use is the main thing we can do to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Murkowski: You support continued nuclear development. Nuclear is a very key component in reducing our emissions. The DOE has an unconditional obligation to take and dispose nuclear waste. What do you propose to do?

Chu: These are very thorny questions. The President-elect has stated his position on Yucca Mountain very clearly, but the DOE has an obligation. I am supportive that the nuclear industry has to be part of our energy mix. There’s a lot of new science coming to the floor. It will occupy a significant part of my time and energy.

Murkowski: Recycling?

Chu: Yes. The processes we have are not ideal. There’s an urge to reduce the proliferation resistance of recycling. There’s an economic feasibility issue. This is in my mind is a research problem.

10:40 Johnson: High-power renewable energy transmission.

Chu: Some of the greatest renewable energy resources lie in areas like the Dakotas and the southwest United States. How do we construct these very expensive lines across state boundaries, over states that don’t benefit much from them, frankly, to population centers that do benefit? We have to think nationally. There are two obstacles: siting is one. We have the technologies.

Johnson: Biofuel production. What policies need to be in place to reach production targets?

Chu: This is partly a technical question. I frankly don’t know whether one can safely go to E15 and E20 and higher with automotive engines.

Johnson: Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory in South Dakota.

Chu: I visited the DUSEL laboratory. It’s a very exciting project. Going forward, I’m going to have to remove myself from decisions with that specific project, but with regard to cooperation with the DOE, this is squarely in the sights with what they plan to do in FermiLab. Cooperation between NSF and DOE is essential.

10:46 Burr: I hope we can expeditiously take care of your nomination. Do you support FERC having expanded transmission authority?

Chu: Let’s just say I know the bottlenecks and there’s been a lot of frustration. DOE has authority to designate critical corridors. There are two designated corridors. We’re now mired in lawsuits. What you really want to do is make these things happen as quickly as possible. If one just expands the authority my feeling is the states and local people might react. We should start with a softer approach but we do have to move quickly.

Burr: Nuclear loans. Authorized at $18.5 billion. Not sufficient but a good start. Will you make the loan guarantee program more useful?

Chu: I think it is something that is very important. It’s a mixture of the loan guarantee program and the local regulatory authorities. The point here is that nuclear power is going to be an important part of our energy mix. I will do my best to put together a leadership and management team to do this in a more timely manner.

Burr: Technology transfer.

Chu: What we need to do is get to the place where we need to go as rapidly as possible. International cooperation is often the best way.

Dorgan: I will be chairing the subcommittee that funds you. I’m happy to vote for you. While I’m a strong supporter of renewables and efficiency, I want to talk to you about coal. 50% of electricity we use is coal. I don’t think anybody believes that in the next decade we won’t use our most abundant resource. Your notion about promoting clean coal technologies, continuing to invest in CCS. Your statements about coal as your worst nightmare. If we continue to use in the whole world using coal without controls I would consider that a nightmare as well.

Chu: Thanks for giving me a chance to expand on that comment that’s been ricocheting around the Internet. In China for example they have not even begun to capture NOX, SOX, mercury. Coal is an abundant resource in world. US, India, China, and Russia have 2/3 of the world’s coal. They will not turn their back on coal. I’m optimistic we will develop CCS. I will work very hard to extensively develop these technologies. There are some people in the United States that believe we should turn off coal. But even if we do, China, India, and Russia will continue to use coal.

Dorgan: We have to do everything well. The price of oil went to $147 a barrel, then went way down. That should not in any way diminish our appetite to develop renewables, conservation, but also more production.

10:58 Barrasso: There are tradeoffs when energy costs go up. 32 years ago when Jimmy Carter came into the Senate he charged a small group of energy planners to come up with a plan in 90 days. They wanted tax incentives for companies to switch from oil and natural gas to coal. I read an article in one of the Wyoming papers when Obama said the dangers of dependence on foreign oil are eclipsed by the long-term threat of climate change. Biden said, “No coal plants here in America.” I’d like to have your comments on that. I know you met with Illinois delegation on FutureGen.

Chu: The coal resources in the United States are immense. I am hopeful and optimistic we can use those resources in a clean way. It’s really a question of technology. I’m very hopeful this will occur and I think we will be using that great natural resource.

Barrasso: Coal is the most affordable, available, and reliable source of energy.

Chu: I would take your question to a slightly different place. As we build new power plants, energy efficiency is a great investment of intellectual thinking because it allows power companies to build fewer power plants. It’s ROI. The biggest thing we can do is slow the building of new power plants and that’s very important. We in DOE would be working very hard to bring these new technologies as quickly as possible. Energy efficiency remains the lowest hanging fruit in the next decade or two.

11:03 Sanders: We’ve talked nuclear and coal, but we haven’t talked about solar. The southwest is the Saudi Arabia of solar energy. Because of the credit crisis, many solar thermal plants are not moving forward. Would you be willing to sit down with the solar industry and myself?

Chu: I would definitely be willing to do that. I share your enthusiasm.

Sanders: Federal policy for PV units on rooftops?

Chu: It would foolish for me to say the rest of the United States cannot learn something from California.

11:09 Sessions: I would like the opportunity to meet with you. I think you’re on the road to a successful confirmation. The nuclear loan program really needs to move forward. Let’s talk about nuclear power. If you accept that CO2 is a global warming problem, isn’t it important we accelerate the use of this clean source of energy?

Chu: Yes. We have to do the work necessary to see if recycling is feasible.

Sessions: It reduces the quantity and toxicity of waste to 600 years from 100,000 years. Carter’s decision was one of the more colossal disasters of energy policy. Are you committed to making a breakthrough here?

Chu: Again, I’m not an expert in recycling technologies. It’s a technology that was invented in the United States.

Sessions: We need to make a decision rapidly.

Chu: There are two questions. Do we build generation 3 reactors? Plans are underway. The recycling issue is one we don’t need a solution today or even ten years from today. It doesn’t mean that you stop everything today. We will be building some coal plants. One doesn’t have a hard moratorium on that while we study CCS.

Sessions: The real crisis economically is not electricity but foreign oil.

11:15 Landrieu: I appreciate the meeting in our office. With so much off limits in the past, I would urge you to be careful about the comment of 4% of known reserves. The importance of developing the right kinds of technology can never be underestimated. We don’t have pirates in the Gulf of Mexico but there are pirates all over the world. Oil and gas industries can’t practice their craft safely in many parts of the world. We do the world a great service if industries can work here. What can you do to move forward on nuclear?

Chu: We need to move forward on the nuclear loan guarantee. I agree we’ve got to get going. We need to develop a plan for the long-range disposal of the waste. There’s research that has to be done on reprocessing.

Landrieu: Sugar is a great base for biofuels.

11:21 Corker: I enjoyed our phone conversation. Would it make sense to have Browner in for testimony? You mean to pursue nuclear now despite issues with waste. We probably need 300 plants.

Chu: I’m confident we can find a solution with the waste problem. This is a complicated economic decision that utility companies have to make.

Corker: You advocate putting a price on carbon. Tax or cap and trade?

Chu: The president-elect is clear in supporting cap and trade. I support his decision. The simpler the cap and trade system is the happier I will be.

Corker: Stakeholders want loopholes. Cap and trade systems have all kinds of free allocations and offsets and you’re not achieving anything.

Chu: Countries around the world are in cap-and-trade systems and we have to integrate with the rest of the world. Again, philosophically, I have not studied these bills that have been advanced, but the simpler it is, the better it is. There are stakeholders.

Corker: Coal is part of our energy base. Without some huge dimunition in our standard of living it’s going to be a part for a long time. I’m just a junior senator from Tennessee. I have trouble seeing how CCS works on a commercial base. Unfortunately Tennessee’s extensive use of coal has been noted in the press recently.

Chu: From the geophysicists I’ve talked with, it’s a possibility but a significant challenge. There are many geological sites we have to test. We have to accelerate the testing.

Corker: A lot of people think that will happen when donkeys will fly.

11:28 Lincoln: I appreciate having the opportunity to visit with you. Cellulosic biofuels.

Chu: We’ve worked on technologies that convert cellulosic material into fuel. In the first six months we’ve trained bacteria and yeast to take simple sugars to produce gasoline/diesel substitutes. The scientists are dedicated to making this commercially feasible.

Lincoln: I just want to make sure it’s something I grow.

Chu: We’re looking at the entire list of possibilities. How do you break plants down. Algae. I’m optimistic real progress can be made.

Lincoln: Do you agree that biofuels have a significant role in addressing our nation’s carbon footprint? Geographic distribution of wind energy leaves out the southeast.

Chu: We have to be very diverse. Solutions have to come from every sector. Biofuels is very important to get off our dependence on foreign oil.

11:35 DeMint: I appreciate your visit to my office. We agree on the importance of moving away from fossil fuels, but also the reality of our near-term use of coal and nuclear. We talked about carbon taxes which concern me in the context of penalizing fossil energy now. The rational way to do that is to create incentives. But carbon taxes or penalties should not take place until we give the time for utilities and industry to convert.

Chu: Coal and nuclear and gas form the baseload generation of electricity today. We have to evolve. We need all the solutions as quickly as possible.

DeMint: It’s been reported that you’ve said, “We should do to raise the price of gasoline to the price in Europe.” Do we really want to add a tax to living and businesses?

Chu: Gasoline taxes are off the table. That comment was made in the context of reducing our use of foreign oil. Energy efficiency is the key. Weatherization of homes. More efficient cars. They’re beneficial in two ways. It reduces costs and reduces demand. Demand went down because of a recession, lowering prices. We do not want to see ever rising costs. This will do exactly that.

DeMint: Nuclear is obviously important. States like South Carolina have received a lot of nuclear waste in temporary storage.

11:42 Cantwell: I look forward to working with you. I’d love to talk about smart grid legislation in the future. Your DOE budget is about $25 billion. About 10 percent of that is the Hanford Washington cleanup. Do you support the tri-party agreement that 99% of the waste should be cleaned up?

Chu: The DOE has a legal and moral obligation to clean up these sites. I will do everything I can to use the funds more effectively and rapidly. I am committed to cleaning up these sites.

Cantwell: The last administration planned to expedite the cleanup by leaving more waste behind. Would you support increasing the Hanford funding? The state has identified a plume of groundwater contamination.

Chu: I’m not sure of the exact number, but I did argue in discussions about the stimulus package for funds for this cleanup. It would be very bad if the contaminants get to the Columbia River.

Cantwell: Some contaminants are already there. A concern is Bonneville Power Authority’s ability to expand transmission lines for renewable energy.

Chu: I support that.

11:48 Menendez: I regret we didn’t have an opportunity to speak before. A national grid is in the national interest. But the entire state of NJ has been designated as a national interest corridor. On the West Coast the DOE produced a transmission line by transmission line study. As the DOE updates their congestion studies, will they be accurate on a line by line study? Would you be willing to narrow the Northeast transmission corridor?

Chu: I recognize that New Jersey is a bigger state than some people think. I would be willing to narrow the corridor based on reviews. I don’t know the details but will review that.

Menendez: We are the second-largest producer of solar equipment. A big challenge is net metering and interconnection standards. Do you support legislation?

Chu: Yes. I’m on the NAS panel, on the transmission and distribution subpanel. The smart grid is a very important part of our strategy to a sustainable energy future.

Menendez: Sen. Sanders and I authored the efficiency block grant program. I hope you will look at that.

11:53 Wyden: I look forward to supporting you as our secretary. The nuclear blueprint greenlights more plants without dealing with the waste.

Chu: I’m willing to work with you, but I believe nuclear power will be part of our future. Nuclear power is 70% of our carbon-free production today.

Wyden: The ballgame on climate change is bringing in China and India into a global agreement.

Chu: Currently we’re in a standoff position. Our position is we won’t go forward without China. China’s position is that the richer countries that have put all the historical emissions up have the responsibility. I think all countries have to be a part but we need to lead. We need to start working with China and India to work concurrently developing technology, particularly efficiency. For example, building energy-efficient buildings.

Wyden: I think you’ll be an excellent secretary.

11:58 Udall (D-Colo.): There’s a belief that a renewed emphasis on science will serve Colorado, this nation, and the world well. I look forward to supporting your nomination. The Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site. We’ve closed that site. But we have ongoing issues. Cleanup, worker health.

Chu: I will certainly look into this.

Udall: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Chu: I think NREL will play a key role going forward. You have my assurance that NREL is certainly on my radar screen and has to play a vital role.

Udall: The national renewable electricity standard. Would you work with us on developing one?

Chu: I would be working with you on that. Renewable electricity is something we have to develop as quickly as possible.

12:04 Bayh (D-Ind.): I enjoyed our phone conversation yesterday. Coal and clean coal technology is very important. I think it’s critical to involve China and India in any CO2 treaty. You said we have to lead and hope China will follow. I don’t think that will pass Congress. Simply trusting China to follow won’t work.

Chu: I agree with that absolutely. I was the author of a international report, Lighting the Way. We said that all the countries have to be part of the solution. This is a touchy diplomatic, international problem.

Bayh: We have to make sure it’s going to work. I’m a little skeptical if they’ll ever get there. Our first hearing was on energy security. I view this as one of our defining challenges of our time.

Chu: First is to move to the electrical grid. We have to improve batteries. These first electric hybrid cars don’t have the battery lifetime we need.

12:11 Shaheen (D-N.H.): As we discussed when we visited, New Hampshire is doing interesting work with biofuels.

Chu: You accelerate first-generation work in many ways. You challenge scientists to keep their eye on the ball. This is not a ten or twenty year program. We’ve had national emergencies. The good news is because of energy security, climate change threats, some of the best and brightest students in the country want to work on this. We should support retraining of postdoctorates. Working with national labs and industry. We don’t know where the solutions will come from, but they will come from the best and brightest. The fraction of our fuel going to something other than petroleum. A low carbon standard. These are excellent draws.

12:15 Bingaman: We wish you well in your new position and the hearing is adjourned.

Next NOAA Chief: Dr. Jane Lubchenco 14

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 19 Dec 2008 15:42:00 GMT

President-elect Barack Obama has reportedly selected Dr. Jane Lubchenco, “an environmental scientist and marine ecologist who is actively engaged in teaching, research, synthesis and communication of scientific knowledge,” as the next director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lubchenco, like Obama’s science adviser John Holdren, is a MacArthur Fellowship winner and was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 1998, Lubchenco founded the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program at the Stanford University Woods Institute for the Environment, the “first formal effort in North America to train mid-career academic environmental scientists to communicate effectively to non-scientific audiences.”

In an interview with the New York Times, Lubchenco strongly advocated holistic efforts to limit human impacts on marine ecosystems:

Networks of no-take marine reserves, for example, can protect habitat, biodiversity, the BOFFS (big old fat female fish) that provide the bulk of the reproductive potential for future generations, and they can provide insurance against mis-management and environmental change. Networks of no-take areas may well provide the most resilience to climate change by protecting as much genetic and biological diversity as possible and allowing adaptation to occur.

Obama Selects John Holdren as Science Adviser 8

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 18 Dec 2008 21:41:00 GMT

As first reported by Science Magazine’s ScienceInsider, “President-elect Barack Obama has picked physicist John Holdren to be the president’s science adviser.”

Holdren is well known for his work on energy, climate change, and nuclear proliferation. Trained in fluid dynamics and plasma physics, Holdren branched out into policy early in his career. He has led the Woods Hole Research Center for the past 3 years and served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2006.

At ClimateProgress, Joseph Romm argues Holden has “more combined expertise on both climate science and clean energy technology than any other person who could plausibly have been named science adviser,” and that this means “Obama is dead serious about the strongest possible action on global warming.”

SolveClimate has a long bibliography of Holdren’s speeches, interviews, and reports online.

One such speech, which lays out how he believes the United States can meet the climate challenge, was given September 13, 2007 in San Francisco:

Obama's Pick for Green Jobs: Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary 6

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 18 Dec 2008 21:19:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

President-elect Barack Obama has reportedly completed his Cabinet with the selection of Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) as Secretary of Labor. Solis, a five-term representative from East Los Angeles, is a progressive leader in the fight for green jobs, as both a “stalwart friend of the unions” and the author of the first environmental justice law in the nation. At this summer’s National Clean Energy Summit, convened by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Solis spoke about her commitment to solving global warming through a clean energy economy for all:

Our nation is at a crossroads right now. We can choose to transition to a clean energy economy that secures our energy supply and combats climate change or we can continue down the same old path of uncertainty and insecurity that we’re currently in. Current economic conditions, particularly for under-served, under-represented minority communities underscore the need to transition to clean energy technology.
Watch it:

The Green Jobs Act authored by Solis and passed into law as part of the 2007 energy bill was not funded at all. Green For All and the Center for American Progress are calling for full funding of this legislation.

Obama Selects Vilsack for Agriculture, Salazar for Interior 6

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 17 Dec 2008 19:44:00 GMT

From the transition team:
In announcing Colorado Senator Ken Salazar as his choice for Secretary of the Interior and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack for Secretary of Agriculture, President-elect Barack Obama made clear he considers both Secretaries-designate to be key members of his energy and environment team.

“It’s time for a new kind of leadership in Washington that’s committed to using our lands in a responsible way to benefit all our families,” President-elect Obama said. “That is the kind of leadership embodied by Ken Salazar and Tom Vilsack.”

In their remarks, Secretaries-designate Salazar and Vilsack both emphasized their commitment to focusing on energy issues.

“I look forward to working directly with President-elect Obama as an integral part of his team as we take the moon shot on energy independence,” Secretary-designate Salazar said. “That energy imperative will create jobs here in America, protect our national security, and confront the dangers of global warming.”

Secretary-designate Vilsack spoke of his commitment to “promote American leadership in response to global climate change,” and declared his intent to “place nutrition at the center of all food programs administered by the Department.”

At the Nation, John Nichols criticizes the selection of Vilsack as “at best, a cautious pick,” saying “Obama could have done better, much better.” Nichols pointed to progressive food politics leaders such as writer Michael Pollan, Tom Buis, the president of the National Farmers Union, Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture Rod Nilsestuen or North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture Roger Johnson.
Even more impressive would have been former North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture Sarah Vogel, an always-ahead-of-the-curve advocate for food safety and fair trade. The same can be said for Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a former policy analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture who co-founded and for many years led the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

(Buis praised Vilsack’s selection in the New York Times and Washington Post.)

The Center for Biological Diversity calls Sen. Salazar’s record “especially weak in the arenas most important to the next Secretary of the Interior: protecting scientific integrity, combating global warming, reforming energy development and protecting endangered species.”

In contrast, the League of Conservation Voters calls both “skilled, knowledgeable leaders committed to protecting our environment and rebuilding our economy with clean, renewable energy.”

At the New Republic, Bradford Plumer delves into the scandal-ridden Department of Interior Salazar will inherit.

Obama Announces Climate Team 5

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 16 Dec 2008 01:39:00 GMT

President-elect Barack Obama introduced his selections for his energy and environment team today: Dr. Steven Chu for Secretary of Energy, Lisa Jackson for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Nancy Sutley for chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, and Carol Browner for a new White House position as chief energy and climate adviser. Heather Zichal was also named as deputy assistant to the President on climate and energy policy.

Below are Barack Obama’s remarks:
Good afternoon. Over the past few weeks, Vice President-Elect Biden and I have announced key members of our economic and national security teams. In the 21st century, we know that the future of our economy and national security is inextricably linked to one challenge: energy. So today, we’re pleased to introduce the team that will lead our efforts on energy and the environment.

In the next few years, the choices that we make will help determine the kind of country – and world – that we will leave to our children and grandchildren. All of us know the problems rooted in our addiction to foreign oil – it constrains our economy, shifts wealth to hostile regimes, and leaves us dependent on unstable regions. These urgent dangers are eclipsed only by the long-term threat of climate change, which – unless we act – will lead to drought and famine abroad, devastating weather patterns and terrible storms on our shores, and the disappearance of our coastline at home.

For over three decades, we’ve listened to a growing chorus of warnings about our energy dependence. We’ve heard President after President promise to chart a new course. We’ve heard Congress talk about energy independence, only to pull up short in the face of opposition from special interests. We’ve seen Washington launch policy after policy. Yet our dependence on foreign oil has only grown, even as the world’s resources are disappearing.

This time must be different. This time we cannot fail, nor be lulled into complacency simply because the price at the pump has – for now – gone down from $4 a gallon. To control our own destiny, America must develop new forms of energy and new ways of using it. This is not a challenge for government alone – it is a challenge for all of us. The pursuit of a new energy economy requires a sustained, all-hands-on-deck effort because the foundation of our energy independence is right here, in America – in the power of wind and solar; in new crops and new technologies; in the innovation of our scientists and entrepreneurs, and the dedication and skill of our workforce. Those are the resources we must harness to move beyond our oil addiction and create a new, hybrid economy.

As we face this challenge, we can seize boundless opportunities for our people. We can create millions of jobs, starting with a 21st Century Economic Recovery Plan that puts Americans to work building wind farms, solar panels, and fuel-efficient cars. We can spark the dynamism of our economy through long term investments in renewable energy that will give life to new businesses and industries, with good jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced. We will make public buildings more efficient, modernize our electric grid, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect and preserve our natural resources.

We must also recognize that the solution to global climate change must be global. I spoke a few days ago with Senator John Kerry, who updated me on the recent climate negotiations in Poland. Just as we work to reduce our own emissions, we must forge international solutions to ensure that every nation is doing its part. As we do so, America will lead not just at the negotiating table – we will lead, as we always have, through innovation and discovery; through hard work and the pursuit of a common purpose.

The team that I have assembled here today is uniquely suited to meet the great challenges of this defining moment. They are leading experts and accomplished managers, and they are ready to reform government and help transform our economy so that our people are more prosperous, our nation is more secure, and our planet is protected.

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.

For my Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, I have chosen Lisa Jackson. Lisa has spent a lifetime in public service at the local, state and federal level. As Commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, she has helped make her state a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing new sources of energy, and she has the talent and experience to continue this effort at the EPA. Lisa also shares my commitment to restoring the EPA’s robust role in protecting our air, water and abundant natural resources so that our environment is cleaner and our communities are safer.

Nancy Sutley will be an integral part of this team as the Chair of my Council on Environmental Quality in the White House. In recent years, we have seen states and cities take the initiative in forging innovative solutions on energy. Nancy has been at the cutting edge of this effort – working as a Regional Administrator for the EPA, at the state level in Sacramento, and recently as the Deputy Mayor for Energy and the Environment in Los Angeles. Now, she will bring this unique experience to Washington, and be a key player in helping to make our government more efficient, and coordinating our efforts to protect our environment at home and around the globe.

Finally, the scope of the effort before us will demand coordination across the government, and my personal engagement as President. That is why I’m naming Carol Browner to a new post in the White House to coordinate energy and climate policy. Carol understands that our efforts to create jobs, achieve energy security and combat climate change demand integration among different agencies; cooperation between federal, state and local governments; and partnership with the private sector. She brings the unmatched experience of being a successful and longest-serving Administrator of the EPA. She will be indispensable in implementing an ambitious and complex energy policy.

Later this week, I will be announcing my designee for Secretary of the Interior, which will fill out my energy and environmental team. The Interior Department will play a critical role in meeting the challenges that I have discussed today.

Looking ahead, I am confident that we will be ready to begin the journey towards a new energy frontier on January 20th. This will be a leading priority of my presidency, and a defining test of our time. We cannot afford complacency, nor accept any more broken promises. We won’t create a new energy economy and protect our environment overnight, but we can begin that work right now if we think anew, and act anew. Now, we must have the will to act, and to act boldly.

Thank you.

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.

Corzine: Lisa Jackson 'Has Done a Remarkable Job' in a 'Constrained World' 2

Posted by Wonk Room Tue, 09 Dec 2008 16:34:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Lisa Jackson, President-elect Barack Obama’s co-chair of his energy and natural resources transition team, has emerged as the top candidate to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Jackson, a 46-year-old African American engineer, left her job as administrator of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to become Gov. Jon Corzine’s chief of staff on December 1. Jackson has a mixed record at the New Jersey DEP, earning praise for her work ethic but criticism for difficulties achieving the department’s mission.

In an exclusive interview with the ThinkProgress Wonk Room, Gov. Corzine says Jackson has been “remarkably successful” despite a limited budget and competing state priorities:

Lisa Jackson is, without question in my mind, someone who has overwhelmingly been successful as an environmentalist, but also she has also been a person who understands that we have to move in a disciplined thoughtful manner. We can’t do everything at once. . . I think Lisa has done a remarkable job of trying to move the environmental agenda forward within a constrained world.
Watch it:

Corzine’s view is shared by local environmentalists like the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions’ Sandy Batty, and Environment New Jersey’s Dena Mottola Jaborska, who told Environment and Energy News that Jackson is “a skilled administrator who’s willing to listen” and the “best DEP commissioner that New Jersey had for a long time.” Jackson’s agency “has suffered from a slate of budget cuts by Democratic and Republican governors alike, and thousands of staff positions have been lost over the years.” Struggling to reduce a multi-billion-dollar state debt, Corzine himself has slashed the DEP budget even as the department’s responsibilities have expanded to handle global warming.

The list of problems at the underfunded agency is long. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has been the most critical of Jackson’s potential appointment, claiming “Jackson embraced policies at DEP echoing the very practices at the Bush EPA which Senator Barack Obama condemned during the presidential campaign,” including “suppression of scientific information, issuance of gag orders,” and “closed-door deal-making with regulated industry executives and lobbyists.” PEER’s Jeff Ruch describes Jackson as “a pliant technocrat who will follow orders”:
While Ms. Jackson has a compelling biography, little of what occurred during her 31-month tenure commends her for promotion. Under her watch, New Jersey’s environment only got dirtier, incredible as that may seem.

PEER, which exposed many of the EPA’s worst practices under Stephen Johnson, notes that “Jackson appointed the lobbyist for the New Jersey Builders Association as her Assistant Commissioner to oversee critical water quality and land use permits,” and “failed to warn parents or workers for months about mercury contamination” at a day-care center in a former thermometer factory.

Transcript:

CORZINE: Lisa Jackson is, without question in my mind, someone who has overwhelmingly been successful as an environmentalist, but also she has also been a person who understands that we have to move in a disciplined thoughtful manner. We can’t do everything at once.

We have the most Superfund sites in America in New Jersey. And we are cleaning them up within the financial capacity of what we have the resources to do. And we need help from the federal government on that.

Having Lisa here, who is absolutely committed to the kind of cleanup that some of her critics would say she should have done more of . . . Those individuals I think some times are not putting it in the context of health care, or education, or other difficult but important responsibilities that government has to take on. I think Lisa has done a remarkable job of trying to move the environmental agenda forward within a constrained world.

Energy Secretary Contender Dr. Steven Chu: Transform the Energy Landscape to Save 'A Beautiful Planet' 7

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

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