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News reports link Steven Chu to energy secretary post

| 11 December 2008

Steven ChuSteven Chu (Roy Kaltschmidt, LBNL, photo)

According to news sources ranging from the New York Times and Reuters to Bloomberg and CNN, Nobel laureate Steven Chu is President-elect Barack Obama's choice for secretary of energy.

Despite the rumors, Obama has not made a formal announcement. Obama is set to introduce his energy team, including the DOE secretary and the director of the Environmental Protection Agency, early next week.

Chu, director of the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a professor of physics at UC Berkeley, is in Europe and cannot be reached for comment.

Obama has already chosen one UC Berkeley professor, macroeconomist Christina Romer, to chair the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Romer — and Chu, if selected — must undergo Senate confirmation before assuming their roles in the Obama administration.

Numerous UC Berkeley faculty members and staff are part of Obama's transition team, among them Laura Tyson, former chair of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Clinton and a professor in the Haas School of Business; Christopher Edley, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law; Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under Clinton and a professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy; Maria Echeveste, a lecturer in the law school; and Thomas Kalil, special assistant to the UC Berkeley Chancellor for Science and Technology.

Chu left Stanford University in 2004 to take over as director of LBNL, at the same time joining the UC Berkeley physics department and the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. He was recently appointed to the Philomathia Chair in Alternative Energy.

Chu has pushed tirelessly for stepped-up research to develop renewable and sustainable sources of energy to stave off the dire effects of global warming. He spearheaded the Helios project at the lab to tap sunlight for renewable energy and, with UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, convinced energy company BP to invest $500 million over 10 years to develop viable biofuels as an alternative to fossil fuels. The year-old Energy Bioscience Institute is a collaboration among scientists from UC Berkeley, LNBL, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and BP.

Chu shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for the development of laser cooling and trapping of atoms and molecules.

[News reports predicting Steven Chu's appointment appeared in more than 1000 sources, including the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal (link by subscription only), NPR (link to audio), Voice of America (link to audio), BBC News, CNN, CNET , Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France Press, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, USA Today, San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, KGO TV (link to video), and Business Week]