Obama names energy, environmental chiefs

16 December 2008 00:19  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--President-elect Barack Obama on Monday named Nobel physics laureate Steven Chu to head the Energy Department, saying the scientist will lead the US toward more alternative and renewable energy sources.

However, Obama’s selection of Chu as energy secretary was quickly and sharply criticised by Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“Steven Chu has made troubling comments” on energy policy, Inhofe said.

The appointments that Obama makes to top energy and environmental posts are of keen interest to US chemicals firms and other manufacturing interests that are dependent on natural gas as a feedstock and an energy resource. Moreover, they likely will face restrictions under climate-control legislation that the president-elect and the new Congress advocate.

Obama said Chu, who now heads the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and won the Nobel Prize in 1997, will make the pursuit of new and cleaner forms of energy and new alternative and renewable energy sources “the guiding purpose of the Department of Energy as well as a national mission”.

The president-elect also named Lisa Jackson as his choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), noting that she has been a leader in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection.

He also appointed former EPA administrator Carol Browner to a new White House post to coordinate federal energy and environmental policy - a job informally titled as “energy czar”.

Browner served as EPA director during the Clinton administration. Obama said she “brings the unmatched experience of being a successful and longest-serving administrator of the EPA”.

But Inhofe, a high-profile opponent of global warming theories and climate-change legislation, said he is worried that Obama’s energy and environmental appointments suggest that once in office he will be “ready and willing to restrict realistic energy supplies [with policies that will] drive energy prices higher, harming already struggling Americans".

Inhofe said that “Steven Chu has made troubling comments” and has “unabashedly called coal - which generates 50% of our nation’s electricity - his ‘worst nightmare’ ”.

“Equally worrisome is Chu’s call for raising America’s gasoline taxes to European levels,” Inhofe said.

The senator said Browner “is a proud liberal who has long advocated an environmentalist agenda that would drive up energy costs on families and put thousands of Americans out of jobs”.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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