Making a greater commitment to renewable energy sources
This committee knows well the challenges that we face. Climate change is a growing and pressing problem. It is now clear that if we continue on our current path, we run the risk of dramatic, disruptive changes to our climate system in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. At the same time, we face immediate threats to our economy and our national security that stem from our dependence on oil.
Last year's rapid spike in oil and gasoline prices not only contributed to the recession we are now experiencing, it also put a huge strain on the budgets of families all across America. Although prices are now lower, providing some relief to American consumers, we know that our economy remains vulnerable to future price swings. We must make a greater, more committed push towards energy independence and with it a more secure energy system.
In many ways, President Barack Obama's plan builds on the good work of this committee in recent years: a greater commitment to wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewable energy sources; aggressive efforts to increase energy efficiency of our appliances and buildings; more fuel efficient cars and trucks, and a push to develop plug-in hybrids; greater investment in technology to capture and store carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants; a continued commitment to nuclear power and a long-term plan for waste management and disposal; responsible development of domestic oil and natural gas; increased commitment to research and development of new energy technologies; a smarter, more robust transmission and distribution system; and a cap-and-trade system to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Taken together, these elements of President Obama's plan will put us on a course to a better energy and environmental future, create new jobs and industries, restore U.S. energy technology leadership, and help form the foundation for future economic prosperity. It will be my primary goal as Secretary to make the Department of Energy a leader in these critical efforts.
In pursuing this goal, I will be building on my work as the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
As director of this 4,000-person organization for the last four years, I have worked to focus the lab on our energy problems. In particular, I have challenged some of the best scientists at the Berkeley lab to turn their attention to the energy and climate change problem and to bridge the gap between the mission-oriented science that the Office of Science does so well and the applied research that leads to energy innovation.
I have also worked to partner with academia and industry. I know that these efforts are working, and I want to extend this approach to an even greater extent throughout the Department's network of National Laboratories where 30,000 scientists and engineers are at work performing cutting-edge research.
I also pledge to continue the important work of the Department in many other areas-the Power Marketing Administration's delivering affordable energy, programs to modernize the electricity grid, the Energy Information Administration's energy market data, and many others.
I was proud to be a member of the committee that produced the report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," commissioned by chairman Jeff Bingaman and Senator Lamar Alexander. The over-arching message of that report is simple: The key to America's prosperity in the 21st century lies in our ability to nurture and grow our nation's intellectual capital, particularly in science and technology. As the largest supporter of the physical sciences in the U.S., the Department of Energy plays an essential role in the training, development and employment of our current and future corps of scientists and engineers.
As diverse as these missions and programs are, my efforts as Secretary will be unified by a common goal: improving management and program implementation.
Simply put, if the Department is to meet the challenges ahead, it will have to run more efficiently and effectively. One of my first priorities will be to put a strong leadership and management team in place - one that shares not only my vision for the Department, but also my commitment to improving the way the Department does business.
I do not underestimate the difficulty of meeting these challenges. But I remain optimistic that we can meet them. I believe in the dynamism of our country and our economy. And as a scientist, I am ever-optimistic about our ability to expand the boundaries of what is possible.
For the Record is an edited excerpt of the Statement of Steven Chu, then Secretary of Energy-Designate, before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the U.S. Senate on January 13, 2009.