Thursday, December 11, 2008

Steve 75 tapped as the new Energy Secretary

This is good news for people - like me - who hoped that the Obama presidency would incorporate more science and more environmental awareness into decision-making. One way that the former hope could be accomplished is to appoint really respected scientists into positions that govern things that they know a lot about. One way the latter hope could be accomplished is to appoint someone to positions of power in the administration that are - in some way - pro-environmental*, and one way of doing that is to change the course of the United States energy policy.

Well, we hear today that Steve 75 (formally known as Dr. Steven Chu) has been tapped as the next energy secretary. Fantastico! Needless to say, that ScienceBlogs is all going nuts about this appointment.

(Via Thoughts from Kansas):
Steven Chu of Lawrence Berkeley Labs is reported to be President-elect Obama's nominee for Secretary of Energy.

While much will be made of his Nobel Prize and his aggressive advocacy for science-based solutions to the climate crisis, his nomination is important for another reason.

Chu is Steve 75 on NCSE's Project Steve. Project Steve is a humorous mockery of creationist lists of scientific supporters. The 987 signers of the Project Steve statement are all PhD scientists who support evolution, and all are named Steve (or Stephen, Stephanie, Istvan, etc.) Since Steves represent roughly 1% of the US population, we can extrapolate those 987 signers to roughly 100,000 scientists who support the teaching of evolution, and oppose the teaching of creationism.

As Wikipedia points out: "Both Nobel Prize-winning Steves in science, Steven Chu and Steven Weinberg were among the first 100 Steves." Weinberg was Steve #6.

It is encouraging to see an advocate of strong science education in charge of one of the largest science funding agencies.
Also via Loom (formerly on Scienceblogs):
Barack Obama has picked Steven Chu, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at Berkeley as his Secretary of Energy. This will be interesting–what happens when you put a Nobel-prize winning scientist in charge of a government department? Here’s one prediction: expect a lot of synthetic biology. Practically nobody has heard of synthetic biology today, but that will probably change.
And Questionable Authority:
If the latest set of transition leaks are as accurate as the previous few have been, President-Elect Obama will announce the nomination of Steven Chu for Energy Secretary.
Chu's background is a bit light on the politics side - no DC job, no elected political office - but even if you consider that to be a down side, the rest of his resume more than makes up for the lack. He's a career scientist. He's a world-class physicist, one of the 1997 recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics, and has been the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004.
He understands the scientific process. He knows what it takes to do good science, and how to get in the way of that as little as possible. He's been an effective head of a national laboratory. He's served on international panels on a variety of issues, including climate change. He's an advocate for the use of good science in public policy, and for better science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. All of those things are good indications that this is a guy who might just be able to rebuild the Department of Energy.
Possibly the best thing about Dr. Chu is this: not only does he understand just how much we know about the relationship between climate, energy efficiency, and the environment, he also understands just how much we don't know. He understands how important it is to close that gap, how little time we have to do it, and just why these issues are so important[.]
And finally from Cris Mooney at The Intersection:
Apparently it's going to be Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory director Steve Chu. I heartily applaud the pick. It's especially noteworthy that Chu has been a big proponent of action on global warming and clean energy.
Chris Mooney also reminds us that Chu was one of many scientists who endorsed the ScienceDebates 2008:

Fantastically wonderful right now. Hopefully his politic-lite background won't be a hindrance to him once he starts his job in Washington...

[*] By pro-environmental, I mean that they understand that fossil fuels are a limited resource, the impacts of which cannot be externalized by the real world - no matter what traditional economic analyses say. That things are linked, and not always linearly in space or time - no matter what single-discipline engineering might indicate. That individual choices on a large scale will have major cumulative results; that small choices matter.

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