Last month we reported on the likely departure of Dr. Steven Chu as head of the DOE and we listed some potential replacements.
But there have been conflicting statements as to Chu's current status.
Bloomberg reports that Chu's resignation announcement is imminent. In response, two weeks ago, the DOE issued a statement saying that, "Dr. Chu is focused on his job as secretary each day and hasn’t made any announcements about his future plans." That came from Bill Gibbons, Energy Department spokesman, in an e-mailed statement.
Well, it is now official. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has just announced he intends to resign once a successor is named.
Ninja billionaire hedge-fund manager and advanced energy advocate Tom Steyer is reportedly on the short list of replacements.
Steyer is the founder of Farallon Capital Management and the co-founder of OneCalifornia Bank. He also created the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy at Stanford University. Last year Steyer said, "The failure of Solyndra has cast a shadow over advanced energy in the country -- especially in D.C.," at an ACORE-sponsored Renewable Energy Finance and Investment Network event in San Francisco, California.
The picture being painted in the press is very misleading, according to Steyer. Steyer gave some reasons to be cheerful, including a new miles-per-gallon standard and that the majority of respondents in a field poll support carbon legislation.
Steyer made a distinction between renewable energy and advanced energy. Steyer views the shift from coal to natural gas and the focus on energy efficiency as part of this move to advanced energy.
Steyer has spoken of coalition building, saying, "If the fight is jobs versus the environment -- we'll lose," adding, "We need the right messenger. The American Lung Association has been fighting for health and we need them on our side. We need business people. We need the right message and right messenger."
He suggested, perhaps controversially, that "we need to push for the end of all subsidies."
Political consultant Paul Bledsoe, quoted in Politico, noted that lawmakers have relationships on Capitol Hill, while governors’ executive experience can help bring GOP support.
“The sweet spot here for Energy Secretary at this political moment is someone who is expert at DOE programmatics and well liked on the Hill,” said Paul Bledsoe, an environmental aide in the Clinton administration, to Politico.
Rob Day writes that the DOE "needs to transition from a focus on technological innovation (without losing the progress made there) to a focus on commercialization and consensus-building."
Who could get that job done? Who gets to guide Obama's energy policy, such as it is, over the next four years?
We've had a Nobel Prize-winning scientist in Chu. Perhaps we need a DOE Secretary who is more of an engineer, financier, or CEO. Who would be the right person for the job?
Here's an excerpt of Secretary Chu's letter, issued today, in which he outlines his accomplishments during his tenure:
Serving the country as Secretary of Energy, and working alongside such an extraordinary team of people at the Department, has been the greatest privilege of my life. While the job has had many challenges, it has been an exciting time for the Department, the country, and for me personally.
I’ve always been inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, who articulated his Dream of an America where people are judged not by skin color but “by the content of their character.” In the scientific world, people are judged by the content of their ideas. Advances are made with new insights, but the final arbitrator of any point of view are experiments that seek the unbiased truth, not information cherry picked to support a particular point of view. The power of our work is derived from this foundation.
This is the approach I’ve brought to the Department of Energy, where I believe we should be judged not by the money we direct to a particular State or district, company, university or national lab, but by the character of our decisions. The Department of Energy serves the country as a Department of Science, a Department of Innovation, and a Department of Nuclear Security.
I have worked each day to move the Department in a direction where the political leadership and highest levels of career managers have the intellectual curiosity and wisdom to learn from the people who reported to them and where the subject matter experts – which should include managers at the highest levels – as well as employees at our national laboratories welcome their counsel and help. I grew up and matured in organizations where a graduate student or staff scientist could have a discussion with a company department head, a professor, a national lab director and be heard, not because of their rank in the organization, but because of the quality of their ideas.
I came with dreams, and am leaving with a set of accomplishments that we should all be proud of. Those accomplishments are because of all your dedication and hard work.
While I will always remain dedicated to the missions of the Department, I informed the President of my decision a few days after the election that Jean and I were eager to return to California. I would like to return to an academic life of teaching and research, but will still work to advance the missions that we have been working on together for the last four years.
In the short term, I plan to stay on as Secretary past the ARPA-E Summit at the end of February. I may stay beyond that time so that I can leave the Department in the hands of the new Secretary.
The journey that I began with you four years ago will continue for many years. I began my message talking about my vision of what I wanted to do with the Department. Some of those goals have been realized, and we have planted many seeds together. Just as today’s boom in shale gas production was made possible by Department of Energy research from 1978 to 1991, some of the most significant work may not be known for decades. What matters is that our country will reap the benefits of what we have started.
It has been a great honor and privilege to work with all of you.