I haven’t been as focused on Obama’s Cabinet picks as have others, but the pending nomination of Steven Chu to head the Department of Energy begs a note. Xeni Jardin’s headline (Obama Selects Nobel Prize Winning Nerd for Energy Chief) addresses part of what’s exciting about the appointment. Just as exciting to me, and something I haven’t seen mentioned by those who are tracking Obama’s appointments closely, is the symbolism of the Chinese-American Chu taking the reigns of a Department that 8 years wrongfully imprisoned Chinese-American scientist Wen Ho Lee. (Robert Scheer did yeoman’s work tracking the NYT’s disgraceful role in Lee’s persecution.) Chu’s fellow Secretary-desginee Bill Richardson was running Energy at the time and responsible for Lee’s treatment.
Even cooler, of course, is the fact that Chu is an expert on alternative energy sources.
Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said the need for alternatives to gasoline has become “very pressing” as the price of oil has risen. “Currently, transportation fuel is the most valuable form of energy we have,” Chu said. The economics is such that powering automobiles with gasoline is now four times as expensive as powering them with plug-in electricity, he said.