Obama Names Nobel Prize Winner To Energy Post

Steve Chu will face challenges regarding fossil fuel if he is confirmed as head the Department of Energy. Chu is currently director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALEX COHEN, host:

The president-elect has yet to announce his top energy and environmental advisers. They'll have the task of helping him curb global warming emissions and develop Obama's new green economy. NPR science correspondent Chris Joyce is here to tell us more about these posts. And, Chris, who are going to be the folks filling these jobs?

CHRIS JOYCE: Well, as you said, nothing has been announced or officially confirmed, but the names have been leaking out of the transition team. And first among those is Steven Chu, who is a Nobel-Prize-winning physicist and a real rock star, if you will, in the scientific community because, well, not often do people win the Nobel Prize for physics, but he did it at AT&T Bell Lab with some very elegant experiments that I guess, in the world of physics, people are often quite thrown by the elegance and ingenuity of his experiments.

He actually slowed down atoms using lasers so they could be studied motionless, which may not have a lot of practical application...

COHEN: But it sounds pretty cool.

JOYCE: It's very cool, and it gained a lot of respect. But he - Steve Chu has changed quite a bit over the years since he won that Nobel Prize because he's moved to a national laboratory, which is part of DOE. And he's focused - refocused his efforts on green energy, and he's very outspoken in terms of trying to develop energy sources from plant materials and bio-fuels. And this is likely to be a very big part of what he'll do if he indeed becomes the secretary of energy.

COHEN: And what do we know about the top White House adviser on climate and energy policy?

JOYCE: The so-called Energy Climate Czar, I think people are calling it. I suppose if we have a car czar, we have to have a climate czar. This is supposedly going to be Carol Browner, who was the head of EPA in both Clinton administrations, actually, I think probably the longest serving EPA director.

She's a lawyer. She used to work with Al Gore in the Senate. She has earned herself quite a reputation when she was working for President Clinton as a tough regulator, someone who defended the Clean Air Act vigorously against lawsuits brought by industry questioning some of the scope of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. So she comes with, again, quite a lot of green credentials and reputation for being very savvy on how Washington works.

COHEN: And finally, Chris, can you tell us a bit about who is going to head up Mr. Obama's EPA?

JOYCE: Again, the name that's being bandied about quite a bit about is a woman named Lisa Jackson. She is a chemical engineer, and she is working currently as the environment - she started working as the environment head for the state of New Jersey in 2006. And again, she also worked at EPA during the Clinton years, so we've got a couple of people here who were Clinton executives and environmental movers and shakers during the Clinton administration.

And she's probably going to be facing a tough row to hoe because the EPA is under attack from environmental groups and has been over the past two administrations for being what environmentalists say is rather lax. And there are probably be going to be lots of environmental regulations that were modified or added during the Bush administration that are going to be under attack.

COHEN: NPR's Chris Joyce. Thank you, Chris.

JOYCE: You're welcome.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.