December 10th, 2008
05:40 PM ET
6 years ago

Officials: Chu likely to be named as energy secretary

Chu is Obama's choice for energy secretary, sources tell CNN.
Chu is Obama's choice for energy secretary, sources tell CNN.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – President-elect Barack Obama is likely to name Dr. Steven Chu, a physicist who runs the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, as his new Energy Secretary, three Democratic officials close to the transition told CNN.

The three officials said the announcement is expected to come next week in Chicago and that Obama will also unveil Carol Browner, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Clinton administration, as the newly-created "climate czar" inside the White House itself.

Chu won the 1997 Nobel prize in physics and is highly respected in energy circles. But some Democrats have privately expressed concern that Chu has no political experience as he takes on the monumental task of passing a landmark energy reform bill early next year.

While Browner is seen as a shrewd inside player who could help the incoming Energy Secretary navigate Capitol Hill, Obama will face questions about how effective his team will be going up against oil companies and other special interests that do not want to change the status quo.


"Energy is going to be a huge fight," said one Democratic official close to the transition. "They need someone with the gravitas and force of
personality to make it happen."

Democrats in recent days have privately floated some other big names for Energy Secretary, including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

But a source close to Schwarzenegger told CNN that the governor wants to serve out the rest of his term in the Golden State. A source close to Powell told CNN the retired general will take "no formal Cabinet role" in an Obama administration, but is leaving the door open to an informal troubleshooting role - such as Mideast envoy - if the incoming president has a specific mission that needs to be filled.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. CTSadler

    Isn't it amazing to have a president who actual nominates competent people for office rather than ole' drinkin' buddies.

    December 10, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  2. Unshrub

    Wow, having someone run the dept of energy who actually is an expert in the field. What will Obama think of next? I bet Obama went as so far and to not even discuss his religious ideology either.

    December 10, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  3. kirk in upstate new york

    President-elect Obama is creating one of the most intellectual and diverse cabinets the United States has ever seen. Ideology no longer is king. How about that?! I am a strong believer in the strength of diversity. The breadth of uncommon experience will create a far more sophisticated pool of resources for the cabinet to draw upon.

    I'm very proud of our nation...and it has been an eternity, it seems, since I have been able to say that aloud!

    December 10, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  4. Moe, NY

    This man's credentials sound good to me! As for the "political experience" that some say is lacking....I say GREAT! Obviously, this man is not a lobbyist and sounds like he will be on the people's side when he comes up against "oil companies and other special interests that do not want to change the status quo." Bring him on!

    December 10, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  5. No incumbents 2010

    I say hallelujah, he has no political experience. Sign him up NOW!

    December 10, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  6. TjayeInLA

    I'm loving how Obama's administration is looking a lot like America.

    December 10, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  7. Adri

    Now the objection is that Chu is an outsider; before it was everyone is an insider... Can't people make up their minds or shut it?

    December 10, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  8. Karen - Missouri

    So, no politicians have been able to put the oil companies in their place...so why not try someone who has intelligence on energy to put down the oil execs arguments in a scientific way.

    We need people like Chu who know what they're doing and not just a "politician". It's time to change Washington's political atmosphere of just picking "friends in political circles".

    I don't think Schwarzenegger is very "informed" when it comes to energy. HE may think so, but I don't see any real credentials from him.

    And "energy" is NOT just oil companies. They may WANT to keep the status quo, so we'll just work around them. If the oil companies don't want to sell hydrogen refueling or E85 or liquid LP, then maybe T Boone Pickens can just set up his own chain stations.

    I'm glad Obama is picking someone to head up the energy position with someone who KNOWS something about energy!

    December 10, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  9. NW

    Tough choice: Schwarzenegger vs. Chu...

    December 10, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  10. Jina

    "But some Democrats have privately expressed concern that Chu has no political experience"

    This just confirms my suspicions that Obama just can't win... if he chooses seasoned politicians, people accuse him of being "more of the same." But if he chooses Washington outsiders, people "express concerns" about the lack of political experience. Can we get an eyeroll here?

    December 10, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  11. Simmy

    His team will be more effective in office than the outgoing president, with all his eight years of experience! Stop creating questions that are only in the minds of your circle! President-Elect Obama will have a great administration. Despite the so-called scandal that he's not even involved in, he will continue to shine. Run and tell that!

    December 10, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  12. Matt

    This would be great. I heard Dr. Chu give a talk at a conference 2 years ago on establishing a Manhattan-Project-esque approach to the energy crisis. I wouldn't say that he has no political experience–he's been director of Berkeley Lab for the past four years, which involves a lot of interaction with government officials and agencies.

    December 10, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  13. Phil of Colorado

    I don't care who is appointed so long as they stop the bickering and make meaningful progress on making the USA self sufficient.

    December 10, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  14. Randy, San Francisco

    A great choice by Obama in choosing a real expert. Chu is a co-recipient of the Nobel prize in physics, 1997. Politics should not be a problem because of his experience as the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Policies and programs will be based on sound science and not partisan politics. This will be a departure from the previous administration.

    December 10, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  15. Susan, California

    Who do these oil companies think they are that they can dictate to government whether they want to change or not?

    December 10, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  16. Chris

    I hope this guy can survive. He's pretty nerdy. I say-nice pick. I heard T. Boone Pickens speak the other night on cspan. He was all about getting away from oil as a function of nat'l security. This guy's all about the environment. Maybe people on both sides are coming around to this new energy economy? Great time to be a civil engineer or solar panel maker.

    December 10, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  17. marie

    first, "this is not the change we voted for, too much experience" and now "NOOOOO!!! he has no experience!!"

    some people seriously need to get a grip and take a cold shower

    December 10, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  18. please

    Jina – couldn't have said it better...

    December 10, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  19. Dylan from MN

    I love this pick, Dr. Chu is a briliant man who's dedicated his life to the betterment of science and the world. It's about time we have some scientists running this country!

    December 10, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  20. Charlotte

    He's in for a rough first few years but it sounds like he has the intellect, education and scientific stature to throw around a lot of weight with respect to energy issues. Political naivete will make it harder for him but he should have plenty of support and guidance in that arena. As a Ph.D. scientist myself, I'm really tickled to see this kind of respect proferred to science in favor of political insider-ness.

    December 10, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  21. Mandate for Change (Bipartisanship)

    It would be nice if Pres. Elec. Obama selected someone from Republican side as energy secretary. This would prove we really do have a new government in place.

    Even though she has different opinion with Pres. Elec. Obama with respect to climate change (I share Obama's views), I think Gov. Sarah Palin would make a fantasitic energy secretary. She has already negotiated strong deals with the oil companies to benefit her people in Alaska. She can do the same and more for the rest of the country.

    Gov. Sarah Palin -> a great pick for energy secretary for the Obama administration.

    December 10, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  22. Will, NJ

    A smart person incharge of a critical position? Is this really the United States?

    December 10, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  23. caywen

    Were they to choose a seasoned politician, I'd be the first to complain, "but he has no scientific knowledge!"

    I think Obama made a wise choice. There's plenty of political skill, but not enough science.

    December 10, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  24. joe six pack

    He has no political experience. That's perfect! The best ideas always come from outside the circle.

    December 10, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  25. rm

    @Jina:

    I second and third your statement. Obama can't win. It amazes me that some would rather have the country driven all the way into the ground instead of allowing Obama time to concentrate on fixing it. I don't know why he even wants to help the very people trying to bring him down.

    December 10, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
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