Friday, December 12, 2008

A Serious U.S. Energy Policy... Coming Soon?

For understandable reasons, President-elect Obama unveiled his economic team first, and then his foreign policy team shortly after. But climate-mongers such as myself have been patiently waiting to see what his energy team would look like. After all, we've had eight years of an energy policy run basically by lobbyists and industry insiders, and I don't know if you've been paying attention, but that's lead to all sort of horrible problems. So how'd we do?

Obviously it'll be years before we render a true verdict, but the picks are encouraging-
President-elect Barack Obama intends to round out his environmental and natural resources team with a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and three former Environmental Protection Agency officials from the Clinton administration.

The president-elect has selected Steven Chu for energy secretary, Lisa Jackson for EPA administrator, Carol Browner as his energy "czar" and Nancy Sutley to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Democratic officials said Wednesday.

Still unclear is whom Obama will tap for interior secretary...

No former Exxon-Mobil lobbyists? Crazysauce!

Let's look at the team one-by-one. First, the Energy Secretary-
Chu was one of three scientists who shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 1997 for work in cooling and trapping atoms with laser light. He's 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 for research into alternative energy as a way to combat global warming.

It is the oldest of the Energy Department's national laboratories, doing only unclassified work, and in recent years under Chu has been at the center of research into biofuels and solar technologies.

Next, the EPA administrator-
Jackson, who will be the first black person to lead the EPA, is a former New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection commissioner who worked at the federal agency for 16 years, including under Browner when she was Clinton's EPA chief. Jackson is a co-chairman of Obama's EPA transition team, and currently serves as chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine.

A New Orleans native, she grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward, the area stricken by Hurricane Katrina. She holds chemical engineering degrees from Tulane University and Princeton University.

Then, the energy czar-
Browner, who served as EPA chief for eight years under Clinton, will become Obama's go-to person in the White House overseeing energy issues, an area expected to include the environment and climate matters.

Now chair of the National Audubon Society and on the boards of several other environmental groups, Browner has been leading the Obama transition's working group on energy and environment.

Finally, the future head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality-
Sutley, the deputy mayor for energy and environment in Los Angeles and the mayor's representative on the Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is the first prominent member of the gay and lesbian community to earn a senior role in Obama's new administration.

She was an EPA official during the Clinton administration, including being a special assistant to the EPA administrator in Washington. She also previously served on the California State Water Resources Control Board and was an energy adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis.

Now, I'm still not sure we'll ever have the political/national will to do all that is necessarily to tackle the climate change issue, but this is a step in the right direction, and that is certainly better than the alternative. Let's remember that 30 years ago we were at this moment and let it pass us by. Let's not make that mistake again.

[Related reading: Obama Embraces ‘Green Path’ in Economic Stimulus Plan (Bloomberg)]


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