Obama Nominates Bryson For Commerce Secretary

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John Bryson is the former chairman and chief executive of energy company Edison International. He also co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council and served on a United Nations advisory group on energy and climate change.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

Now, a California businessman has been tapped to be the next U.S. Commerce secretary. President Obama has nominated John Bryson to the post. Bryson is the former CEO of energy company Edison International. He is seen as a pro-business pick. He also comes with environmental credentials, as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN: Environmentalists were thrilled with John Bryson's nomination to the Commerce Department, especially Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council. That's the advocacy organization Bryson helped found in 1970.

Mr. RALPH CAVANAGN (Natural Resources Defense Council): What his career exemplifies is the ability simultaneously to advance business and environmental objectives, to show that they are not inherently in conflict, quite the contrary.

KAHN: Bryson continued on a career that exemplified that premise. After leaving the NRDC, he went to work for California energy regulators, then on to Edison. He was at the helm of the energy giant during California's energy crisis in 2000 and 2001. Recently, he sat on the boards of Disney and Boeing.

President Obama says Bryson's environmental and business experience is what's needed if his administration is going to double U.S. exports by 2015.

President BARACK OBAMA: A key to achieving our export goal will be promoting clean energy in America. That's how we'll reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And that's how we'll encourage new businesses and jobs to take root on our shores. John understands this better than virtually anybody.

KAHN: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wasn't as enthusiastic about the nomination. In a statement, the group said it hopes Bryson will be a strong voice for American businesses.

Bryson faces a tough confirmation fight in the Senate. Republicans have vowed to hold up any commerce nominees until the Obama administration moves on free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

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