Experts comment on Obama energy/enviro team picks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on Monday named Nobel physics laureate Steven Chu as Energy Secretary and former Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner to head a new council to coordinate White House energy, climate and environment policies.

Obama also chose Lisa Jackson, chief of staff for New Jersey’s governor, to run the EPA, and Nancy Sutley, a deputy mayor of Los Angeles, as head of the White House Council on environmental quality.

Here are comments from energy analysts, lobbyists, trade groups and lawmakers about Obama’s nominees:

Comments on Steve Chu:

Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources:

“This past October, I got to spend the better part of a day with Dr. Steven Chu at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, discussing energy research and technology frontiers. I was impressed with his knowledge and insights, and the leadership he has provided at the Laboratory.

“I support President-Elect Obama’s choice of him, and I look forward to working with Dr. Chu as he takes on the responsibilities of Secretary of Energy at a pivotal time for our nation’s energy policy.”

Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition:

“Will (Chu) be supportive of fossil fuel research unconstrained by climate considerations? That would seem unlikely to me. That should be welcomed by industry because the way they need help is to make the transition, not to further increase their profitability in the current situation.”

Tim Evans, energy analyst for Citi Futures Perspective:

“This pick marks a real change, given his science background. But I’m not sure how much the Secretary of Energy can do to move the science along in terms of alternative energy breakthroughs.

“He seems like a smart guy and we certainly need to have someone in the position with an appreciation for science and technology.”

Thomas Pyle, president of Institute for Energy Research:

“Unfortunately, Dr. Chu’s comments on coal and his apparent desire to force American motorists to pay European-style gas taxes suggests a view of our nation’s energy portfolio that’s at odds with the facts, and somewhat removed from the growing challenges facing everyday working American families.

“Hopefully, as Dr. Chu comes to discover the indispensable role that affordable energy plays in powering our nation’s economy and delivering a high standard of living to its citizens, he’ll consider adopting a new position on proven, conventional energy sources - one in line with the needs and interests of the people he will be called upon to serve.”

Comments on Carol Browner:

Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition:

“The President-elect’s decision to establish a new White House Council to integrate policy on the intersection of energy, environment and climate change is both visionary and overdue.

“All the agencies of government must be involved, and his selection of Carol Browner to lead the Council signals the importance he attaches to an effective inter-agency process.”

Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“Browner brings many years of experience and expertise in addressing energy and the environmental at state and federal levels, and in the private sector. By creating this new position, President-elect Obama has reinforced his position that clean energy and climate protection are keys to spurring economic recovery while safeguarding the planet.”

Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy:

“We are confident that as head of a new White House office coordinating energy, environmental, and climate change policy, Browner will ensure that this key nexus remains ‘top of mind’ for administration policy makers and agencies ranging from the Department of Defense to Commerce and all those in between.

“And Browner’s background in the public and private sectors suits her well for dealing with Congress as policy proposals are translated into legislation.”

U.S. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, ranking Republican member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:

“Certainly Carol Browner’s record as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under former President Clinton is well known. She is a proud liberal who has long advocated an environmentalist agenda that would drive up energy costs on families and put thousands of Americans out of jobs.

“At a time when the economy is already suffering, it will be interesting to see how President Obama will reconcile what seems to be conflicting agendas in the White House.”

Comments on Lisa Jackson:

Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council:

“Lisa Jackson is dedicated public servant with time in service at the EPA and as head of a state agency. She has experience with enforcement and rulemaking matters. Moreover, as head of an agency in New Jersey, she has had real world experience dealing with areas of scenic beauty, large populations, and substantial industrial development.”

Kateri Callahan, president of Alliance to Save Energy

“We trust that as EPA administrator, Jackson will bring the same vision and drive she demonstrated in New Jersey to her new post, and that she will continue to advance energy efficiency as an essential strategy for putting our nation on the clean energy path that is so essential for our economic and national energy security, as well as our environmental health”

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Democrat of Delaware, senior member of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

“I can think of few people more qualified and ready to lead the EPA during these challenging times than Lisa Jackson, a principled and pragmatic advocate with a strong resume at both the state and federal levels on a host of environmental and energy issues.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with Ms. Jackson and seeing her testify before the Environment and Public Works Committee on the importance of regulating carbon dioxide emissions while simultaneously reducing our emissions of smog, soot and mercury to benefit public health.”

Comments on Nancy Sutley:

Thomas Pyle, Institute for Energy Research

“Advocates of responsibly developing America’s abundant homegrown energy reserves had hoped the new president would use the CEQ appointment to send a signal to the country and the world that securing our nation’s energy future will be a top priority of his administration.

“The apparent selection of Ms. Sutley for this important post does not appear to meet this mandate, though we remain hopeful that her tenure during this critical time will prove to be a successful one for our nation.”

Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe and Matthew Robinson; Editing by David Gregorio