Ecocentric

Outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s Parting Warning on Warming

The Nobel prize-winning physicist brought rare intelligence to the Presidential Cabinet—and an abiding concern about global warming.

  • Share
  • Read Later
WireImage

Outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today that he would be stepping down. Chu’s departure is not unexpected, and it’s not rare—most second Presidential administrations feature a lot of Cabinet turnover, and a number of Chu’s colleagues had already announced plans to leave. He’s said he’ll stick around until President Obama can find a successor, which might be several weeks.

Chu will be missed, as much—if not more—for who he was, as what he did. Chu’s record as Energy Secretary is mostly positive—as a Washington outsider, he was handed tends of billions of dollars in stimulus funding, and channeled it towards promising investments in clean tech that should continue to pay off in the years to come. He wasn’t perfect—some of those bets, like Solyndra, failed to pay off, and that Washington inexperience could hamper him. (Brad Plumer at the Washington Post has a good scorecard on Chu’s four years.)

But Chu was the first person to ever join a Presidential Cabinet as a Nobel prize winner—and for physics, not one of those liberal arts Nobel prizes like peace. He was the embodiment of an ideal: that the truly best and the brightest could come to Washington to serve the public at our moment of need. Chu actually lived up to that Superscientist ideal during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, when he helped lead the team that figured out a way to plug the blown out well. But Washington is Washington, and given the political microscope he’s been under for the past couple of years, I imagine Chu can’t be too sad to leave D.C. behind. At least he’ll having an easier time biking to work from now on.

Chu always knew that climate change was one of the biggest threats the U.S. and the world faced—see his pre-Secretary warnings on the danger of coal. He’ll leave office with U.S. carbon emissions at their lowest level since 1994, thanks to increased energy efficiency, more renewable energy and the switch from coal to natural gas. But he’ll also leave knowing that much more needs to be done. Chu ended his characteristically detailed final memo with a reminder of the ethical need to fight climate change:

Ultimately we have a moral responsibility to the most innocent victims of adverse climate change. Those who will suffer the most are the people who are the most innocent: the world’s poorest citizens and those yet to be born. There is an ancient Native American saying: “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” A few short decades later, we don’t want our children to ask, “What were our parents thinking? Didn’t they care about us?”

Bonus material: a video interview I did with Chu in 2009

(MORE: Why Climate Change Has Become the Missing Issue in the Presidential Campaign)

9 comments
LeeNhan2
LeeNhan2

Intended to find solutions Technology and Alternative Energy for the energy crisis and aims to develop new ideas with impact on Economics and the Environment. 

Please add my new energy sources 100% green

Activities such as wind power, but not necessarily placed outdoors, working 24/24h

See my model wind energy. simple - mild-effective-inexpensive, can be placed anywhere in the southernmost islands north pole ( the Arctic and Antarctica )(even cold weather)

It is located in a closed cycle -not too noisy - not interfere with the direction of the wind

Details at  www.trongdong.weebly.com

calderconnection
calderconnection

Chu was a disaster, and Obama wants to continue starving the world with insane biofuel schemes.

The America people are sleepwalking to starvation. If we do not change our energy policies soon our own grandchildren will go hungry. Millions have already died worldwide for no legitimate reason other than to satisfy the corporate greed of BIG ETHANOL and small minded personal political ambition.  

Switchgrass, algae, giant reed, and all the rest will never produce an ecologically benign fuel that people can afford to use. Biofuel production and the food cost hyperinflation it has created are a major cause of our current economic collapse. We are eroding away our irreplaceable topsoil producing engine rotting, energy inefficient fuels that consumers do not even want in their cars. Biofuels = agricultural suicide

Energy Secretary Steven Chu is myopic and does not understand the consequences of what he is doing. Obama picked Chu only because his responsible science advisors told him the truth, that biofuels are a global disaster, not a solution to any problem

Please view THE GLOBAL BIOFUEL DISASTER on YouTube at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ha7lUWlZaOY


Please view my YouTube video, WINDMILLS KILL BIRDS at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OQMBdcbMTc

For better noncarbon, nontoxic energy alternatives such as Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR), see THE RENEWABLE ENERGY DISASTER - http://renewable.50webs.com/

The only useful renewable energy schemes for large scale energy production are hydroelectric power and to a much lesser extent, geothermal power. All the rest have only done the world harm.

Christopher Calder - nonprofit, nonpartisan food security advocate

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

I'd like to see Chu's successor take a page from Teddy Roosevelt's game plan on "How to Convince the American People that Setting Aside Federal Land as National Parks is a Good Thing - Both Now and for the Future".

Although if memory serves, he did this via Executive Orders, that same process that has the RW calling President Obama a "dictator" at this point in time...

paulejb
paulejb

A fracking good show, no thanks to Chu or any of the other environuts.

sacredh
sacredh

"He’ll leave office with U.S. carbon emissions at their lowest level since 1994, thanks to increased energy efficiency, more renewable energy and the switch from coal to natural gas"

.

Unfortunately, 1994 levels were incredibily bad. Still, some progress is better than continuing the upward spiral. Experts are saying that we're going to be the Saudi Arabia of energy production in the coming years. Hopefully, some of that money will find it's way into increasing cleaner energy and renewable energy. 

jdyer2
jdyer2

Let's see... he gives a warning about the dangers of coal before he is appointed Secretary of Energy.  As he leaves the post he warns about climate change.  While in office?  Not so much.  Kind of like Al Gore running for president promoting the use of our Strategic Petroleum Reserve to keep gas prices down, then lecturing us on climate change after he loses the election.

With Chu's background he could have been a leading voice for the fact that the world is finite and the environment will only support so much growth.  He supported reduction of coal use in the US, but said nothing of the fact that the excess coal was being exported overseas to be burned into the same atmosphere we breathe.  And of course, nothing about climate change until he decides to leave.

Jodun
Jodun

@jdyer2 I agree, but in fairness this happens with most political appointees. While they are in office they serve so long as they tow the administration's line. The first Obama administration chose to focus on things besides climate change, so Dr. Chu was likely told to refrain from making very many remarks or he would be let go. Now that he is leaving his post, Dr. Chu can express his opinions without having to worry as much about the political ramifications.

SpartaofPhoenixAZUSA
SpartaofPhoenixAZUSA

@Jodun @jdyer2 Great, another obviously very self serving politician now telling us when it is in his best interest we need to be less self serving...I am sick and tired of listening to these blow hearts preach one thing for the rest of us while living another...No wonder the climate change "scare" is falling on deaf ears these days...