WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on Monday chose a Nobel physics laureate to be his energy secretary and picked a former top federal environmental regulator to coordinate his energy and environmental policies.
Steven Chu, who won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics and now directs the government’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, will head the Energy Department.
Chu will work closely with Carol Browner, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Bill Clinton, who Obama said will coordinate White House policy on energy and climate change among various federal agencies.
Obama also named Lisa Jackson, chief of staff for New Jersey’s governor, to lead the EPA, and Nancy Sutley, a deputy mayor of Los Angeles, to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Obama’s energy and environmental team will play a major role in his quest to revive the U.S. economy by boosting renewable energy use and creating millions of “green” jobs that will ease America’s reliance to foreign oil.
“All of us know the problems that are rooted in our addiction to foreign oil. It constrains our economy, shifts wealth to hostile regimes and leaves us dependent on unstable regions,” Obama said a news conference in Chicago where he introduced his new cabinet picks.
“To control our own destiny, America must develop new forms of energy and new ways of using it,” he said.
Obama pointed out that over the last three decades other U.S. presidents have pledged to make America less dependent on foreign energy supplies.
“This time has to be different. This time we cannot fail, nor can we be lulled into complacency simply because the price at the pump has for now gone down from $4 a gallon,” he said.
Obama’s energy and environment team will also be charged with developing policies to reduce carbon emissions blamed for global warming.
In a meeting last week with former Vice President Al Gore, Obama said attacking global climate change was a “matter of urgency” that would create jobs.
Obama hopes addressing climate change can create jobs that will help pull the U.S. economy out of a deepening recession. He has begun to lay out plans for a massive recovery plan to stimulate the economy and create about 2.5 million jobs — a portion of them so-called “green jobs.”
Browner, a principal at global strategy firm The Albright Group LLC, was the longest-serving administrator of the EPA.
Chu would be the first Asian-American to lead the energy department.