Google and Facebook Green Experts Baffled By Their Companies' Support For ALEC

Posted by Brad Johnson Sun, 17 Nov 2013 13:02:00 GMT

At a recent forum on the Internet industry’s support for green energy, Facebook and Google representatives could not explain why their companies are members of a powerful lobbying organization that opposes that mission. This year, Google and Facebook became members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nationwide lobbying group that links corporations and conservative foundations with Republican legislators at the state level. When asked by Hill Heat, Facebook’s Bill Weihl replied with reference to other Facebook partners, including Businesses for Social Responsibility (BSR), the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF):
We’re not an advocacy or a single-issue organization. We’re a company. We are members of many different organizations, that one included. We don’t necessarily agree with everything that these organizations says and certainly individual employees may not, but we do an enormous amount of good and we’re really proud of the work we’ve done through other organizations. We work with Greenpeace, BSR, WRI, WWF, and etcetera.

“It’s certainly not because we’re trying to oppose renewable energy legislation,” Weihl concluded, when asked why Facebook is a member of ALEC.

Weihl had earlier noted that Facebook has the explicit goal of being 25% powered by renewable energy by 2015, after which it will set another benchmark. ALEC is working to roll back renewable power standards that support Facebook’s targets.

“The DNA of Google isn’t just about being an environmental steward,” Google’s Gary Demasi said during the panel about climate change. “It’s a basic fundamental issue for the company.”

Like Weihl, Demasi couldn’t explain why Google was a member of ALEC, though he expressed discomfort with the company’s action.

“I would say the same as Bill [Weihl],” Demasi told this reporter when asked why Google supports ALEC. Although he may not be happy with every decision the company makes and doesn’t control the policy arm of Google, Demasi said, “we’re part of policy discussions.”

ALEC’s corporate board is dominated by tobacco and fossil-fuel interests, including Altria, Exxon Mobil, Peabody Energy, and Koch Industries. In its model legislation and policy briefs, ALEC questions the science of climate change and opposes renewable energy standards, regulation of greenhouse pollution, and other climate initiatives.

Google’s policy division is run by former Republican representative Susan Molinari, whose arrival in 2012 marked a rightward shift in Google’s approach to climate policy.

The forum, “Greening the Internet,” was hosted by the environmental organization Greenpeace at the San Francisco Exploratorium. Greenpeace is simultaneously challenging the ALEC agenda, calling out companies like Google for supporting the politics of climate denial, and encouraging internet companies to “clean the cloud.” Greenpeace’s “Cool IT” rankings take political advocacy as a major concern; in 2012 Google had the top score among all tech companies in part because companies such as Microsoft and AT&T were members of ALEC.

The panelists, from Google, Facebook, Rackspace, Box, and NREL, explained why their companies have set the goal of having their data centers be powered entirely by renewable energy.

Box’s Andy Broer made the moral case for acting to reduce climate pollution.

“I’ve got kids,” he said. “We’re stewards here. We need to make certain what we’re doing today doesn’t ruin the future.”


HILLHEAT: I want to, first off, thank all of you for the work that you’re doing. As kind of a failed climate scientist, I’ve dedicated my life to fighting climate change, and you’re actually getting real results in that. One thing that concerns me is that the American Legislative Exchange Council — which is a corporate group that anyone who is a member of Greenpeace or has read anything of their work [knows] — works to block renewable energy legislation at the state level, question the science of climate change, and basically establish policies that prevent the kind of work that you’re doing. So I’m wondering why Google and Facebook are members of this organization, and how it makes you feel that the work that you’re doing is essentially being countered by the political arms of your own groups?

[Nervous audience laughter.]

WEIHL: We’re not an advocacy or a single-issue organization. We’re a company. We are members of many different organizations, that one included. We don’t necessarily agree with everything that these organizations says and certainly individual employees may not, but we are in a position do an enormous amount of good, and we’re really proud of the work we’ve done as a company, and through other organizations. We work with Greenpeace, BSR, WRI, WWF, and et cetera.

HILLHEAT: And do you know why you’re working with ALEC?

WEIHL: I’m not familiar with all the details of why we’re working with ALEC, so I can’t comment on that.

HILLHEAT: It’s not because you’re trying to oppose renewable energy legislation?

WEIHL: It’s certainly not because we’re trying to oppose renewable energy legislation.

HILLHEAT: And is Google in the same boat?

FEHRENBACHER: I’m going to go on to the next question.

Greening The Internet: How Leading Companies are Building a Green Web

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 13 Nov 2013 21:00:00 GMT

Greenpeace and Gigaom’s Katie Fehrenbacher cordially invite you to a special forum on the sustainability of the IT sector:

Greening The Internet: How Leading Companies are Building a Green Web

At the San Francisco Exploratorium.

Cloud and mobile computing are transforming society and have the potential to help make it greener. But the rapid growth in electricity needed to power the online world is gaining attention and raising a central question: How Green is the Internet?

In an important shift, some of the best known Internet companies have recently embraced this challenge head on. Join data center and sustainability experts from Box, Facebook, Google, Rackspace, and other leading companies to hear why they are going beyond energy efficiency and have committed to powering their growth with clean renewable electricity.

Gigaom’s Katie Fehrenbacher will lead a discussion with energy experts and representatives from Internet companies who have already committed to power their operations with 100% renewable electricity, to address question like:

  • Why are leading Internet companies committing to 100% renewable energy?
  • How can Internet companies play an important role in accelerating a shift to renewable energy?
  • What are the challenges to powering with renewables, and how have companies overcome them?
  • What renewable energy options do companies who rely on colocation providers have?

Following the forum, all participants are invited to take a tour of the Rainbow Warrior III, Greenpeace’s new custom-built, high-tech sailing ship, which will be docked next to the Exploratorium.

12:45PM Registration
1:00PM Welcome – Katie Fehrenbacher, Senior Writer, GigaOM
1:05PM Building a Green Internet—Why It Matters and Signs of Leadership, Gary Cook, Senior IT Analyst, Greenpeace International
1:15PM What are the options to build a Green Internet?
1:20PM Greening the Internet: Leading internet companies share why and how they are seeking to power their platforms with clean power. Presentations by Box, Facebook, Google, Rackspace and other leading technology companies.
2:30PM Break
2:40PM-4:00PM Complimentary 20-minute tours of Rainbow Warrior III, Greenpeace flagship docked at the Exploratorium
2:40PM In depth lessons learned sessions on renewable energy options and energy reporting (company representatives only)


Facebook Bill Weihl

Bill Weihl joined Facebook in early 2012 to manage sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives. His group is leading projects to measure and report the company’s carbon and energy footprint, to build real-time public dashboards for PUE and WUE, and to procure clean energy, and generally to understand and manage the company’s environmental footprint. Previously, he spent six years as green energy czar at Google, where he led efforts in energy efficiency and renewable energy, spearheading Google’s drive to become carbon neutral, founding the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, and leading the RE&IT initiative to develop renewable energy cheaper than coal. He has extensive business and technical experience in high-tech, including ten years as a professor of computer science at MIT, five years as a research scientist at Digital’s Systems Research Center, and five years as chief architect and then CTO of Akamai Technologies. In 2009, he was named one of Time Magazine’s Heroes of the Environment.

Rackspace Hosting Melissa Gray Senior Director of Sustainability

Melissa is responsible for defining and guiding Rackspace’s Sustainability strategy and activities around the globe. She leads the Global Energy Team, Green Teams and is a member of the Global Infrastructure Team. In addition she leads the Emerging Talent team for Rackspace’s Foundation Services organization and is the Executive Sponsor of the LGBTQA Emloyee Resource Group. Since joining Rackspace in October of 2009, her prior roles have included the development of Operational Support Systems and Chief of Staff to the CEO developing Rackspace’s multi-year strategic plan. Prior to Rackspace, Gray brings over 15 years of business strategy and operations experience working for a Fortune 10 company, transforming complex legacy businesses through innovation. She holds 3 EU and US software patents. Melissa received her B.A. from Western Michigan University.

Google Gary Demasi Director of Data Center Energy and Location Strategy

Gary has over 15 strategy development, corporate site selection, and negotiations experience covering a wide range of industries and operational areas. He has personally managed projects involving hundreds of millions of dollars of capital expenditures, and has executed strategic projects on five continents. In Gary’s current role, he develops overall direction for Google’s global data center site strategy, including managing the company’s energy portfolio, working closely with utility and development partners to secure clean energy for operations. Gary participated in the founding of “Google Energy, LLC” and under Gary’s management, the team has secured over 570 megawatts of renewable energy under long term contracts. Gary holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the University of Vermont and a Master of Science in Real Estate from the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University.

Box Andy Broer Senior Manager of Datacenter Operations

Andy Broer is the senior manager of data center operations at Box. He is responsible for server procurement and provisioning, space and power management and the critical environment that runs Box’s Saas offering. Previous to joining Box in Feb of 2013 he headed Cisco’s Infrastructure Critical Environments (ICE) team for 16 years. Where he was most recently the physical data center design manager of Richardson 9’s DC, the IT “energy czar” watching over capacity constraints for Cisco’s critical IT environments. He was the IT DC build manager for Cisco’s first stand alone Tier III data center in Texas. Prior to that he headed and managed the Data Center Infrastructure Team through Cisco’s explosive growth years in the late 1990s via global acquisitions during which time his team built more than 100 server environments around the world. He was a board and founding member of AFCOM’s northern California branch in 1997 as well as a trustee for a high tech mutual fund (BFOCX) since 1998. He is now co-chair of the Critical Facilities Roundtable’s Technology Group (CFRT). He holds two degrees from San Jose State University: a BA and an MA.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory Stuart Macmillan

Stuart Macmillan is a Chief Scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a Consulting Professor at Stanford University. He was on the founding team of Energy System Integration focused on improved understanding, decision-making, control and design of complex energy systems. He helped create OpenEI, a global energy data commons, and was on the founding team of JavaSoft.

Greenpeace International Gary Cook Senior IT Policy Analyst

Gary leads Greenpeace’s evaluation of climate and energy leadership by global IT brands. He has authored three reports evaluating the growth in electricity demand associated with cloud computing and how different IT companies are performing in ensuring this new demand is powered by renewable energy. Gary has been active in the climate change & energy policy at multiple levels over the past 18 years, working with government officials, multinational corporations, and local governments to strengthen policy drivers at the international, federal, subnational levels Prior to rejoining Greenpeace in 2009, Gary was California Director of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.

Roundtable Discussion on Renewable Energy

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 09 Feb 2011 14:00:00 GMT

The two-day conference will bring together stakeholders from across the government, renewable energy industry, and conservation community to discuss the administration’s efforts to rapidly and responsibly stand-up renewable energy projects on our nation’s public lands.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will open the workshop with a roundtable discussion about the Administration’s work to build a clean energy economy. Immediately following the roundtable, the Secretaries will hold a press conference to discuss how President Obama’s tax cuts are encouraging business investment and job creation in wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies.

Roundtable Discussion with Secretaries Salazar, Chu, Vilsack
  • Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior
  • Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy
  • Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture

10:15 a.m. Press Conference

Department of the Interior Yates Auditorium
1849 C St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20240

All credentialed media are invited to cover the event. Please RSVP to [email protected]

13th Annual Congressional Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Expo And Forum

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 27 May 2010 13:30:00 GMT

In cooperation with Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Caucuses – and in partnership with the House Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition, House High Performance Building Caucus, House Algae Energy Caucus, House Hydropower Caucus, House Green Jobs Caucus, House Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Caucus, and House Green Schools Caucus – the Sustainable Energy Coalition is hosting the day-long 13th annual Congressional Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Expo + Forum.

This year’s Expo will bring together 50+ businesses, sustainable energy industry trade associations, government agencies, and energy policy research organizations (see list-to-date below) to showcase the status and near-term potential of the cross-section of renewable energy (biofuels/biomass, geothermal, solar, water, wind), fuel cells, hydrogen, energy storage, smart-grid, and energy efficiency technologies (e.g., lighting, appliances, vehicles, buildings, CHP).


(11:00 am – 12:00 pm; Cannon Caucus Room)

Names to Be Announced


(12:00 pm – 1:00 pm; Cannon Caucus Room)

  • Philip D. Moeller, Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary for the Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
  • Matt Rogers, Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Recovery Act Implementation, U.S. Department of Energy
  • Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy & Climate Change


(9:40 am – 10:55 am; House Veterans Affairs Committee Room – 340 Cannon)

  • John Cooper – Skyline Solar
  • Dan Delurey – Demand Response & Smart Grid Coalition
  • Todd Foley – American Council for Renewable Energy
  • Norma McDonald, American Biogas Council
  • Debbie Montagna – Ocean Power Technologies, Inc.
  • Jackie Prince Roberts, Director – Sustainable Technologies, Environmental Defense Fund
  • Jack Rogers, Biofuels Marketing Manager, Americas – Novozymes
  • Bob Rose – Breakthrough Technologies Institute
  • Gia Schneider, CEO – Natel Energy
  • Bill Shank, Energy Transitions
  • Scott Sklar, President – The Stella Group, Ltd.
  • Keith Takasawa, Chief Product Development Director – THINK
  • Melissa VanOrnum, Marketing Manager – GHD, Inc.
  • Chris Voell, Program Manager-AgSTAR, Climate Change Division, USEPA
  • Maria Vargas, ENERGY STAR, U.S. EPA
  • Don Moore, CEO – Harmonics Limited, Inc.


(1:10 pm – 4:30 pm; House Veterans Affairs Committee Room – 340 Cannon)

Panel on Solar Technologies
  • Rhone Resch, Ex. Dir. – Solar Energy Industries Association
  • Tony Clifford, CEO – Standard Solar
  • Jeff Wolfe, CEO – GroSolar
  • Eric Huffman, Business Development Mgr. – Eastern Region, SunOptics
Panel on Green Jobs + Sustainable Energy
  • Karl Gawell, Ex. Dir. – Geothermal Energy Association
  • Linda Church Ciocci, Ex. Dir. – National Hydropower Association
  • Lisa Jacobson, Ex. Dir. – Business Council for Sustainable Energy
  • Karen Florini, Environmental Defense Fund
Panel on New Storage, Transmission & Electric Technologies
  • Ruth Cox, Ex. Dir. – US Fuel Cell Council
  • Robert P. Thornton, Ex. Dir. – International District Energy Association
  • Justin Rathke, Dir. – Policy & Dis. Develop., Capstone Turbine Corp.
  • Katherine Hamilton, President – GridWise Alliance
Panel on “Getting Stuff Done”
  • Ryan Colker, Dir.- Consultative Council, National Inst. of Bldg Sciences
  • Chelsea Jenkins, Ex. Dir. – Virginia Clean Cities


  • 3M – Renewable Energy Division
  • Abengoa Solar
  • American Council on Renewable Energy
  • AFC First
  • American Biogas Council
  • Beacon Power
  • Biomass Coordinating Council
  • Business Council for Sustainable Energy
  • California Fuel Cell Partnership
  • Capstone Turbine Corporation
  • Demand Response & Smart Grid Coalition
  • Dow Kokam
  • Dow Solar Solutions
  • Ecobuild America
  • Energy Transitions
  • Enervation Lighting
  • Environmental & Energy Study Institute
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Frostburg State University – Renewable Energy Center
  • Fuel Cells 2000
  • Geothermal Energy Association
  • GHD, Inc.
  • GridWise Alliance
  • Growth Energy
  • Harmonics Limited
  • Ice Energy
  • International District Energy Association
  • Microcell Corporation
  • Natel Energy
  • National Hydrogen Association
  • National Hydropower Association
  • National Institute of Building Sciences
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • NewTek Energy Solutions
  • Novozymes North America, Inc.
  • Ocean Power Technologies, Inc.
  • Renewable Fuels Association
  • SAGE Electrochromics, Inc.
  • Skyline Solar
  • Solar Energy Industries Association
  • Standard Solar
  • SunOptics Prismatic Skylights
  • Sunpeak USA Inc.
  • The Stella Group, Ltd.
  • THINK North America
  • U.S. Clean Heat & Power Association
  • U.S. Department of Energy-Efficiency & Renewables
  • U.S. Department of Energy-Clean Cities
  • U.S. EPA-Center for Program Analysis
  • U.S. EPA-ENERGY STAR Program
  • U.S. Fuel Cell Council
  • U.S. Green Energy Corporation
  • Water Management, Inc.

WonkLine: June 10, 2009

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 10 Jun 2009 13:03:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.


Global warming has “virtually wiped out” the most complex Caribbean coral reefs, “compromising their role as a nursery for fish stocks and a buffer against tropical storms,” a new study finds.

Badly outnumbered and months behind in the debate on energy and climate change, House Republicans plan to introduce an energy bill” drafted by global warming denier Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) today, “setting a goal of building 100 reactors over the next 20 years.”

China is planning a vast increase in its use of wind and solar power over the next decade and believes” it can achieve 20 percent renewable power by 2020,” even as the U.S. renewable standard in clean energy legislation has been whittled down to less than 15 percent by 2020.

WonkLine: June 9, 2009

Posted by Wonk Room Tue, 09 Jun 2009 13:05:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

New York could create as many as 50,000 jobs by converting 45 percent of its electricity needs to renewable energy sources by 2015,” Governor David Paterson said on Monday.

Environmental groups are urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to work with them on increasing the renewable electricity mandate in her chamber’s climate and energy bill to reach at least 20 percent by 2020 and to include more efficiency requirements, as well.”

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) expects his drilling amendment to “shrink the no-leasing zone around Florida’s gulf coast to 45 miles from shore” – “less than half the current buffer” – to be approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today.

Weakening Amendments Fail as American Clean Energy and Security Act Moves Through Markup 1

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 20 May 2009 18:05:00 GMT

The Wonk Room’s guest blogger is Daniel J. Weiss, a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

H.R. 2454The second day of markup on the Waxman/Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) saw a series of amendments from opponents designed to weaken the green economy bill fail in a series of votes. The debate on amendments will continue today and the sessions appear on track to get the bill voted out of committee before this weekend. As the committee discusses the landmark legislation, the Center for American Progress released an analysis of new numbers from the Union of Concerned Scientists showing that households and businesses will save money on their electricity and natural gas bills if Congress passes a Renewable Energy Standard, currently included in ACES.

The renewable energy standard (RES), a key part of the Waxman/Markey bill, requires that 15% of electricity comes from wind, sun, or other renewable sources. In yesterday’s session, bill opponents continued to cite a variety of debunked numbers on increased costs to consumers, but this analysis shows that Americans will save money with the RES included in the bill. States across the country have already seen similar savings as they have implemented RES at the state level. A review by CAP found that half the states have amended their RES after implementation to make it stronger, suggesting its been a successful policy in the states.

Back in the committee, Republican opponents read from a script described by Politico as making “counterintuitive” arguments. Their new approach was based on a strategy memo urging opponents to attack the responsible business leaders who support clean energy legislation. The memo accuses businesses of being “guilty of manipulating national climate policy to increase profits on the backs of consumers.” The tone-deaf message of the memo won’t change the fact that businesses see ACES as a chance to create jobs and begin to chart a course out of the current recession. And the script urged:
The bottom line message is this: Democrats are protecting big business; Republicans are protecting consumers.

This ignores the fact that Republicans opposed every effort in 2008 to lower gasoline prices and rein in oil companies.

Amendments that passed yesterday included a provision introduced by Reps. Dingell and Inslee for a Clean Energy Deployment Administration within the Energy Department. This “green bank” would serve to promote clean energy projects in the U.S. through affordable financing for clean energy technologies. A similar amendment from Rep. Eshoo for a Clean Technology grant program also passed. Another major amendment passed was Rep. Betty Sutton’s (D-MI) “cash for clunkers” automotive upgrade program.

Study: China Spending $12.6 Million Every Hour Greening Their Economy

Posted by Wonk Room Tue, 21 Apr 2009 15:06:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

China GDP StimulusA new report from the Center for American Progress points out that the United States is slipping behind other nations in the development and deployment of clean energy and efficient infrastructure even as China spends $12.6 million every hour greening their economy.

Read the full study here.

China, as part of their two-year stimulus plan, is poised to spend 3% of their GDP a year on public investments in renewable energy, low-carbon vehicles, high-speed rail, an advanced electric grid, efficiency improvements, and other water-treatment and pollution controls. This is about $12.6 million every hour. In the United States, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act invests about half as much as China on comparable priorities. This represents less than half of one percent of our 2008 gross domestic product.

The paper also shows that, when it comes to preparing our country to compete in the new energy economy of the future and create millions of new jobs, the United States lags behind most of our competitors in the rest of the world in a four key ways.

  • We have no national energy portfolio standard that encourages clean, renewable power and shifts away from dirty and dangerous energy.
  • We have an outdated electrical grid unsuited for the task of carrying energy from regions rich in wind, solar, and geothermal potential to the people who need the energy.
  • We don’t make dirty energy companies pay for the pollution they pump into the air; in fact, we give them billions every year in tax breaks.
  • And we don’t invest enough in research, development, and deployment to inspire our entrepreneurs and leverage their discoveries by helping bring their bold new technologies to market.

As venture capitalist John Doerr recently pointed out in his testimony before the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, “What is at stake is whether America will be the worldwide winner in the next great global industry, green technologies.”

Is Subsidizing Commercial Energy Projects the Best Way for America to Achieve its Energy Goals?

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 24 Mar 2009 16:00:00 GMT

The ethanol mandate taught us that energy subsidies for commercial energy projects can lead to unintended consequences and ultimately be counterproductive. Yet Washington’s attempts to address America’s energy questions continue to rely heavily on preferences, mandates, and subsidies for energy commercialization. This is causing energy experts from across the political spectrum to begin questioning the role of subsidies in energy policy. Is this an area where liberals and conservatives might agree?

Join us for a panel with four politically diverse energy experts who will discuss these questions and others as they investigate where agreement exists on the role of energy subsidies, mandates, and preferences in commercializing energy in the United States.

  • Peter Bradford, Vermont Law School, former NRC Commissioner and Union of Concerned Scientists Board Member
  • Marlo Lewis, Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute
  • Doug Koplow, Founder, Earth Track
  • Ben Lieberman, Senior Policy Analyst, Energy and Environment, The Heritage Foundation
  • Jack Spencer, Research Fellow in Nuclear Energy Policy, The Heritage Foundation
  • Henry Sokolski, Executive Director, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC)

214 Massachusetts Ave NE

Steven Chu, Obama's Choice For Secretary Of Energy 1

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.

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