Obama Picks Nobel Winner As Energy Secretary
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
It's reported that President-elect Barack Obama plans to nominate the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as his energy secretary. No official announcement is expected right away, but Democratic officials say Steven Chu is the president-elect's pick to head the Energy Department. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is expected to hold a news conference in Chicago tomorrow to formally announce his choice of Tom Daschle as Health and Human Services secretary. That pick was confirmed several weeks ago. Well, NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now, and Scott, let's start with Steven Chu. What can you tell us about him?
SCOTT HORSLEY: Well, before he took over as head of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, he was the chairman of the physics department at Stanford University in California. And another Stanford professor that I just spoke with, Jim Sweeney, said that Chu would really represent the brightest and the best. He shared a Nobel Prize for physics back in 1997, so he obviously has real scientific chops. But he's also described as someone with a broad command of the economics and the political policy behind energy issues. And that's something that Mr. Obama has really been putting a huge emphasis on, not only within the Energy Department but on his national security team and elsewhere throughout the Cabinet as he builds his administration.
SIEGEL: Yes. Steven Chu, I gather, at the laboratory, has been a leader on alternative energy, no?
HORSLEY: Yes, pioneering work on renewable forms of energy, solar and wind. Not only as an alternative to imported oil but also as a way to address climate change. He's also looked at ways to use more traditional forms of energy like coal, which we use to bake about half of our electricity, but to do so without generating so much greenhouse gas. And he's been a big advocate for energy efficiency. Again, one of the things we expect to hear from the president-elect, as he puts forward this economic stimulus plan, is how to use government money not just to jump-start the economy but to make investments in things like alternative energy, like energy efficiency, that will pay some long-term dividends.
SIEGEL: Now, Scott, is it true that Mr. Obama has another Californian in mind to head the White House Council of Environmental Quality?
HORSLEY: Yes. Nancy Sutley, who is a deputy mayor to Antonio Villaraigosa in Los Angeles, is expected to sort of head this council that hopes to oversee environmental policy within the White House. She was a backer of Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primary. In fact, she was part of Senator Clinton's gay and lesbian steering committee, and she would be one of the most prominent members of that community in the new Obama administration. She also has spent time in Sacramento as an adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis in California, and she worked for the EPA in Washington. So, we've - you know, we've seen now from the president-elect the economic team, the national security team. And we're starting to get a look at the shape of the president-elect's energy and natural resources team now. We are still waiting, though, for an announcement of the president-elect's pick for EPA administrator.
SIEGEL: But tomorrow, you say, when Mr. Obama holds a news conference, the subject of that will be health care.
HORSLEY: That's right. We're going to have to wait a little bit longer to have this sort of official word on any of these energy and environmental picks. Tomorrow, we're expected to get a formal announcement of what we've known for some time now, that Tom Daschle will be Mr. Obama's pick to head the Health and Human Services Department, and also to really spearhead his efforts to reform the U.S. health-care system. In fact, tomorrow's news conference is being billed as a discussion of the future of the nation's health-care system.
SIEGEL: Mr. Daschle, of course, the former Democratic leader in the Senate and man who I've heard was instrumental in advising Barack Obama to go for it and run for president this time.
HORSLEY: And someone who, with his experience at the Capitol, is expected to sort of help spearhead the political path of health-care reform.
SIEGEL: Scott, thanks.
HORSLEY: My pleasure, Robert.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Scott Horsley talking to us about the latest news out of the Obama transition team.