Outgoing Energy Secretary Warns Of Dangers Of Climate Change

Secretary Chu is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who came into office with high hopes. He was selected to help the president pursue his green energy agenda and fight climate change. It turned out to be a rocky road. Some of the green companies that got big government loans, like Solyndra, ended up going bankrupt, and the president had to drop his plans to get Congress to adopt climate change legislation. Still Chu helped the country make progress in becoming more energy efficient.

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Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today that he's resigning. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist took the job to help President Obama transform the nation's energy sector. But NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports a fossil fuel boom got in the way.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN, BYLINE: When Steven Chu took office, his goal was to help attack the problem of climate change by weaning the nation off oil, natural gas, and coal. Instead, a different transformation took place. New technologies prompted big increases in domestic oil and natural gas production. Kevin Book is an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners.

KEVIN BOOK: So, ironically, the thing that he came to do was made harder by his inadvertent success at fossil energy production.

SHOGREN: At the White House today, President Obama praised Chu.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Because of his leadership, this country's further along on the path to energy independence.

SHOGREN: It's an accomplishment that would have delighted previous energy secretaries, but not Chu. During Chu's tenure, the nation did double the electricity it gets from the sun, wind, or other renewable sources. But these efforts drew a lot of criticism, especially when a solar company named Solyndra went bankrupt, losing half a billion in taxpayer dollars.

Chu defends that record, but his letter to his staff makes clear he has different regrets. He warns of the dangers of climate change and urges the nation to resist using all of that newly available oil and natural gas. He says, quote, "The Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of stones. We transitioned to better solutions." Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, Washington.

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