Obama's second term will see Hillary Clinton depart as Secretary of State, Leon Panetta depart as Secretary of Defense, and Steve Chu likely to step down from his post as Secretary of Energy.
We're not going to handicap the now-controversial State post or the post at the DOD -- but we will check-in on the Obama DOE, a department that has its successes as well as tactical and structural failures.
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, CEO, and/or political adept. Here's a list:
- Jim Rogers: The CEO of Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) said that that he was glad to be considered for the DOE role but did not anticipate taking the "lower-paying job." (Rogers made the comment during a November 8 earnings call.) Duke owns 58,000 megawatts of coal, gas, and nuclear power plants. Politico was the source of the "short list" which included Rogers as well as Cathy Zoi, now with Silverlake Kraftwerk and before that the Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency; Kathleen McGinty, a director at NRG Energy and an operating partner at VC Element Partners; and Lewis Hay, the CEO of NextEra Energy. The right-wing Heritage Foundation takes issue with those choices here.
- Bill Gates: "He has extensive experience running huge organizations [and] he’s been a proponent for years of doubling energy research funding in the U.S. What better perch to accomplish this than the boss of the DOE?" said Justin Raade, CEO of Halotechnics. And of course, "If he’s not happy with the amount Congress appropriates for DOE he can just top off the budget with a few billion of his own funds."
- Elon Musk: If you're going to go with a fiercely driven engineer, I'd suggest we drop Gates and go with Musk. He sent a rocket to the space station, pioneered electric vehicle maker Tesla, and is Chairman of PV installer SolarCity. Now it's time for Musk to face a real challenge -- making the 16,000-employee DOE more efficient and more effective. Don't expect Musk to fund fuel cells, however.
- Thomas Steyer: Steyer is the founder of hedge fund Farallon Capital Management and the co-founder of OneCalifornia Bank. He created the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy at Stanford University and is the co-founder of the Advanced Energy Economy Foundation, a think tank/lobbying group promoting a better business environment for advanced energy.
- Susan Tierney: Tierney co-led the 2008 Obama DOE Agency Transition Team and assisted Energy Secretary Steven Chu early on. She was Assistant Secretary of Energy for Policy in the Clinton administration. Tierney turned down the Deputy Secretary of DOE job in 2009. She is an energy consultant for the Analysis Group.
- John Podesta: Chief of Staff in the second Clinton Administration, Chicagoan Podesta founded and chairs the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank in D.C. He was the co-chair of the Obama transition team in 2008.
- Steve Westly: Reportedly on the short list for the DOE post last time, Westly brings executive, political, and investor experience. He was State Controller and CFO of California from 2003 to 2007 and a leading candidate in the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Westly is founder of The Westly Group, a greentech VC firm. He was an early employee at eBay.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger: No one doubts the governor's credentials on solar power and renewables -- his policies were instrumental in establishing California's solar leadership, as well as setting a 33 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard. Arnold would bring some Hollywood scandal to the DOE, which is lacking in that regard. And having Schwarzenegger in charge of the DOE's nuclear security program would be exciting.
Who would be the right person for the job?