//Chu in for Energy Secretary?

Chu in for Energy Secretary?

Sorry about the terrible pun, but it does look like physicist Steven Chu will be named President-elect Barack Obama’s Energy Secretary. Democratic officials close to the transition team say that Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, appears to be increasingly on track to become energy secretary.

A Chinese-American, Chu is a professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California-Berkeley and has been the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004, where he has pushed aggressively for research into alternative energy as a way to combat global warming.

It is the oldest of the Energy Department’s national laboratories, but does only unclassified work and in recent years under Chu has been at the center of research into biofuels and solar technologies. Chu has been a strong advocate for the need to engage scientists in the search for ways to combat global warming by replacing fossil fuels with other energy sources such as biofuels and the sun.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, will be nominated as secretary of energy, Democratic officials said Wednesday…

Officials familiar with the selections say Mr. Chu is likely to focus his attention on the Energy Department’s core missions: basic science, nuclear weapons and cleaning up a nuclear-weapons manufacturing complex contaminated since the Cold War. Ms. Browner will coordinate renewable energy and energy efficiency policy from the White House, two areas that will feature prominently in a half-trillion-dollar economic-stimulus plan the new president hopes to sign into law as soon as he is inaugurated.

Mr. Chu bring sterling credentials as a scientist to a job that often has gone to former politicians. As an Asian-American, he also brings more ethnic diversity. He would inherit an agency that, despite its name, has little power to set energy policy, compared with agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates air quality, and the Transportation Department, which sets automobile fuel-efficiency standards.

The most important signal that this appointment sends out is that politicians finally appreciate that scienists, not economists need to be put in charge of the energy policy and planning. Thank you President-elect Obama, for making another key step in the right direction.