Stephen Chu for energy secretary

The president elect has disappointed many of his supporters by choosing relatively hawkish and right-leaning types to run his foreign and economic policies. But to my mind, his choices for secretary of energy and interior and Environmental Protection Administration chief are more important. And the news Stephen Chu will be energy secretary suggests Barack Obama is going to be progressive where it really counts.

Chu now runs the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and won a Nobel for physics a while back. He also understands both the threat posed by climate change and the role clean, efficient and renewable energy will have to play in addressing that threat.

From his lab's website, we learn:

Chu has also reinvigorated Berkeley Lab's existing programs for energy-efficient buildings, more powerful batteries, and monitoring greenhouse gases. He has made Berkeley Lab a center for powerful new climate models based on fundamental carbon science. Meanwhile he has worked to insure Berkeley Lab's continued preeminence in fields like cancer research, photon science, astrophysics, materials science, and high-performance computing.

And here's video evidence that he's the man for the job:

I can think of no better an American for the job. The Department of Energy spends most of its budget on nuclear power research. There are hints that a fourth generation of nukes, which recycle waste rather than crank it out by the ton, could offer us a needed bridge between the fossil-fuel economy and one based on a true renewables. We need someone who understands the physics to lead that research.

On the other hand, we also need someone who knows that there are already plenty of alternatives to nuclear energy just waiting to be turned into commercially available products.

In both cases, Chu was the right choice


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... Barack Obama is going to be progressive where it really counts.

So ... that financial policy will continue to be in the hands of the same posse that led us to the present precipice, and foreign policy will be guided by those to whom every problem looks like a bombing target ... doesn't count?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

I just want to say that I am pretty sure you got a infestation of sock puppets and old fashion trolls. You may just want to drop the ban hammer on them.

By Trent1492 (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

Another classic example of why people say this is not about politics, or political advocacy, but about science.

"Scientist: a person who objectively gathers facts. They so value the sacred public trust of their objectivity, that they never venture into policy or political debates."

manny, and what then is the purpose of science?

The guy is a breath of fresh air !
(hopefully with CO2 soon to be scrubbed from it).

skwauwk. we should be alarmed about this! we should be alarmed about everything! and get other people alarmed. make them change their lives to fit our notions. we must have alarmism or we will go bust! squawuk. Imagine no CO2 religion. SWUAUWK.

By Perez the Parrete (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

Right Perez, tell that to the people freaking out about terrorist baby bottles and lip gloss. Sometimes there's an actual cause for alarm... and when there is, it's backed up by cold hard facts. Like anthropogenic climate change.

By fullerenedream (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

This is fairly simple. I think everyone from about 6th grade on up knows the purpose of Science. The purpose of Science, is to selectively gather information that supports our point of view, and which best allows us to promote political policy that we feel is best for society. Using our credentials, as members of the Science community, we, to the best of our ability, hype whatever data we can find, to get as much media attention as possible, which helps us raise public awareness and support for our agenda, which results in lucrative feel-good legislation, as well as public and private funding. Its all about public perception. If we have that, nothing else matters.

I am smelling unlaundered Denier sock puppetry. Is it not amazing that these fools will mindlessly castigate science while using a product of science and engineering?

By Trent1492 (not verified) on 12 Dec 2008 #permalink

I have to differ with the characterization of most of DOE's work as "nuclear power research." That makes it sound like DOE spends most of its budget on commercial nuclear power, when in fact most of DOE's involvement with this field has to do with DOE's legal commitment to construct Yucca Mountain (which is supposed to hold both commercial and government waste, btw). The biggest slice of DOE's budget is for the maintenance of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile, then science and the national labs, nuclear site cleanup and waste management, and only then the kind of "energy" research people tend to imagine DOE does. Furthermore, most of the money DOE/ERDA/AEC spent researching commercial nuclear power expended in the failed attempt to commercialize the Liquid-Metal Fast Breeder Reactor. Adjusted for inflation, the amount of money spent developing the technologies in current nuclear plants was surprisingly limited--something like a few billion dollars.

I'm personally quite happy with the selection of Chu for Energy Secretary. Having grown up in Oak Ridge, I can see reasons why a seasoned lab administrator is the right choice for the job. But this has everything to do with the way internal DOE politics work--something that would be quite opaque to an outsider, like a political appointee. Keep in mind, though, that unless the Obama Administration seriously restructures DOE, its overall priorities won't change much. I think Chu will be great for the national labs and the general state of American science research, but as things stand DOE has only limited influence over America's energy sector. Chu is associated with the idea of creating a DOE "DARPA" for energy research--ARPA-E. I think this is a great idea, as DARPA's research model has been very succesful but DARPA itself rejects energy research proposals becuase "they're DOE's job." Furthermore, Chu has expressed support for a closed nuclear fuel cycle--which could dovetail neatly with Harry Reid's determination to kill the Yucca Mtn. repository. But only time will tell what will actually happen.

Dr. Chu made note of the progress, still continuing, in the efficiency of household refrigerators. A table and chart was shown comparing modern refrigerators' efficiency compared with those made in the mid-1970's.

It occurs to me there will be a point where it will be worthwhile to buy a new refrigerator and discard the old (or move it out to the garage). Manufacturing a new refrigerator costs a certain, but unknown to me, amount of carbon that will take years to offset by the operation of a more efficient appliance.

Refrigerators are very well built and can easily last 20 years or more without major repairs or need for replacement.

An old refrigerator may not be the most energy efficient, yet at the same time be more efficient with respect to carbon cost at manufacture simply by not buying a new one and keeping the old, somewhat minorly less efficient refrigerator.

Somewhere there must be a graph showing this difference. When does it become cost effective, in terms of energy efficiency vs. carbon offset for new manufacture, for the consumer to ditch the old machine and buy the new?

I'm interested in the facts here, not ideology.

By rikonjohn (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink