steven chu nominated secretary of energy

To his credit, Obama’s choice for Secretary of Energy, announced today, isn’t a politician, but someone who not only understands the science of global warming, and comprehends its severity, but also knows what needs to be done if we’re to avoid extinction. Assuming he’s confirmed, our new Secretary of Energy is going to be Nobel Prize-winning scientist Steven Chu, the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory… Here’s a little video clip of Chu:

He seems like a good man… Here’s hoping that the politicians don’t eat him alive.

update: The following was just left in the comment thread by a reader who calls himself French Fries. I thought that you might find it of interest:

I’ve had lunch with him, and although he had a nobel prize, his ego did not betray that fact.

He will be only the third career scientist to head the energy concern for the US. When it was called the Atomic Energy Commission, JFK appointed Glenn Seaborg (who had won the nobel prize in chemistry). He lasted for 10 years, and was even kept on by Nixon.

Nixon also appointed a marine biologist, Dixy Lee Ray, who served for about a year. She was a professor at U. of Washington. She was chosen largely for her support of nuclear power.

Most of the DOE secretaries have been military or political appointees. Steve Chu’s appointment, I think, signals our recongnition that we need to fundamentally rethink our position on energy–Iraq proved that we cannot even get the oil once we conquer another country.

The task is daunting. Reducing energy consumption and increasing efficiency are both incredibly hard problems, both for society and for science. A few solar panels here and a couple wind farms there ain’t gonna do it. If we all got hybrids tomorrow that would be offset by population growth in a matter of months. Right now there is a dramatic shift in science research towards the energy problem, but as one of those scientists, I can say that we don’t really know where the huge leaps are going to be.

One depressing fact is the $23.4 billion dollar budget. For some comparison, the National Institutes of Health–just one part of HHS–has an annual budget of $28 billion. The National Science Foundation only has an annual budget of $6 billion. Department of Defense research spending for civilian research is only about 10% of the total, so figure about $5-7 billion. These organizations fund the vast majority of all basic research in this country, and combined the total is barely over $60 billion per year.

For the cost of the Iraq war (so far about $600 billion), we could double all basic science funding for the next ten years.

The hearts of scientists around the world swelled when we learned that one of our heroes would actually wield power in the new administration. That he is kind, broad-minded and an adept adminstrator should be cause for excitement among the non-science public.

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6 Comments

  1. Paw
    Posted December 12, 2008 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Jennifer Granholm was in the running for this position. While it may have been good for Michigan had she gotten it, this is a much, much better choice.

  2. frenchfries
    Posted December 12, 2008 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had lunch with him, and although he had a nobel prize, his ego did not betray that fact.

    He will be only the third career scientist to head the energy concern for the US. When it was called the Atomic Energy Commission, JFK appointed Glenn Seaborg (who had won the nobel prize in chemistry). He lasted for 10 years, and was even kept on by Nixon.

    Nixon also appointed a marine biologist, Dixy Lee Ray, who served for about a year. She was a professor at U. of Washington. She was chosen largely for her support of nuclear power.

    Most of the DOE secretaries have been military or political appointees. Steve Chu’s appointment, I think, signals our recongnition that we need to fundamentally rethink our position on energy–Iraq proved that we cannot even get the oil once we conquer another country.

    The task is daunting. Reducing energy consumption and increasing efficiency are both incredibly hard problems, both for society and for science. A few solar panels here and a couple wind farms there ain’t gonna do it. If we all got hybrids tomorrow that would be offset by population growth in a matter of months. Right now there is a dramatic shift in science research towards the energy problem, but as one of those scientists, I can say that we don’t really know where the huge leaps are going to be.

    One depressing fact is the $23.4 billion dollar budget. For some comparison, the National Institutes of Health–just one part of HHS–has an annual budget of $28 billion. The National Science Foundation only has an annual budget of $6 billion. Department of Defense research spending for civilian research is only about 10% of the total, so figure about $5-7 billion. These organizations fund the vast majority of all basic research in this country, and combined the total is barely over $60 billion per year.

    For the cost of the Iraq war (so far about $600 billion), we could double all basic science funding for the next ten years.

    The hearts of scientists around the world swelled when we learned that one of our heroes would actually wield power in the new administration. That he is kind, broad-minded and an adept adminstrator should be cause for excitement among the non-science public.

  3. egpenet
    Posted December 12, 2008 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Best three things are: 1) He knows climate change is real, 2) he knows the USA and China are the world’s largest polluters, 3) he’s Chinese.

  4. mark
    Posted December 13, 2008 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Great comment, FrenchFries. I’ll move it up to the front page.

  5. John on Forest
    Posted December 14, 2008 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    A couple months ago, I listened to Jay Haykes, http://www.jayhakes.com/
    speak at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library about his book, “A Declaration of Energy Independence.” His although the book covers a variety of things we much do to achieve the goal, he spoke largely of the need for our country to achieve more efficiency. Energy efficiency, he advocated, is the low hanging fruit that has the biggest impact for the dollar spent.

    Chu looks like he has the right mind set for this job. I don’t think Granholm has done enough in Michigan to stimulate new energy development. The RPS the state passed this fall is anemic. Obama knows that the economy is the number one priority going into his presidency, so I expect he will steer energy policy in a way that also stimulates the economy and job creation. Let’s all hope so, for the sake of the country and Michigan.

  6. Ol' E Cross
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    Chu won his Nobel Prize for his work on laser cooling … the perfect answer to to global warming.

    We will cool the earth with lasers because lasers are still cool.

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