Obama’s Newly Picked Environmental and Energy Team to Beat Back Global Warming, Liberal Griping

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Steven Chu, already pointing fingers.
Steven Chu, already pointing fingers. Photo: Getty Images

As the ongoing Rod Blagojevich drama continues to dominate all other news in the world, it was quietly reported that Barack Obama has settled on his energy and environmental team — just, you know, the people tasked with saving the planet from the threat of global warming and America from the clutches of oil. So who makes up this super-team? Energy Secretary Steven Chu heads the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997 "for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light" (we don't know what that means, but it sounds difficult). Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Nancy Sutley will chair the Council on Environmental Quality. To head up the EPA, Obama has tapped Lisa Jackson, a sixteen-year veteran of the department and current chief of staff to New Jersey governor Jon Corzine. White House energy coordinator, a new position focusing on energy reform, is likely to be filled by longtime Clinton EPA chief Carol Browner. Happy, vocal Internet liberals?

• Steve Benen expects that "the vast majority of those on the left will be doing cartwheels" over the picks, with "polluters and global-warming deniers" the only ones complaining. They demonstrate that Obama truly intends to "overhaul the system and implement a bold, 21st-century agenda." [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Matt Yglesias says Chu is "brilliant and has brilliant credentials," though, in reality, the Department of Energy's "responsibilities are pretty limited, and a lot of them relate to our nuclear weapons arsenal rather than energy policy as such." Regardless, "Chu should be a force for good." [Think Progress]

• Marc Ambinder writes that Chu "is untainted by Washington's caution on climate change, which thrills energy transformation advocates"; also, "the left loves him." [Atlantic]

• Jonathan Weisman and Stephen Power write that "Obama is signaling his seriousness about combating climate change" and "appears to be moving to the left with some of his new choices — at least on business issues — after his early cabinet choices were widely seen as centrist and moderate." [WSJ]

• Iain Murray always expected more liberal appointments for "positions relating to the environment, labor, health and so on," which "seems to be the case" here. [Corner/National Review]

• Ben Smith calls the team "obviously accomplished people and capable administrators," singling out Chu as having more "academic credentials" and managerial experience than most of Obama's other appointments. At the same time, the "lower-profile environmental appointees" may have a hard time "compet[ing] for oxygen in the political, Washington universe of the White House with the higher profile foreign policy and economic teams." [Politico]

• Jake Tapper notes that Chu will be the first person to serve in a president's Cabinet having already won a Nobel prize. [Political Punch/ABC News]

• A reader to Andrew Sullivan's blog objects to Chu being referred to as a rocket scientist: "Dr. Chu is a Nobel Laureate, a biochemist, and an experimental physicist — but he's not a rocket scientist! I am a rocket scientist, and my wife is a biochemist, so please believe me on this: rocket science is much simpler than either of those fields." [Atlantic]

• James Fallows is encouraged that Obama has been able to convince impressive people like Chu "to move to Washington and wrestle with the most complicated politico / technical / diplomatic problems, given all the hassles and built-in frustrations and lack of privacy in governmental life," especially when they're "not actively scheming for the job." [Atlantic]

• Bradford Plumer says Browner, "known as a fierce defender of federal environmental rules" during the Clinton years, is "a very green pick." [Vine/New Republic]

• Andrew Revkin thinks the Chu pick "would undoubtedly be hailed both by those pushing for development and large-scale testing of nonpolluting energy technologies and by environmental campaigners seeking knowledgeable leadership at the giant agency." Chu believes that we don't yet have the technology needed to fight climate change, a notable split with Al Gore. [Dot Earth/NYT]