Obama’s environment dream team: Steven Chu

stevenchuI described Barack Obama’s election as a new hope for a planet in peril. This couldn’t be more true as the President-elect chose real scientists to run the environment and energies agencies.

This is a stark difference with President Bush’s policies and environmental record. But a fact was little noticed: Dr. Steven Chu, the new Secretary of Energy, could be a great link with China.

What if under the impulse of this Nobel Prize, the two largest greenhouse gases emitters were working hand in hand to solve the climate change issue ?

According to the Green Leap Forward, a great blog I recently discovered:

(…) But this is a China blog, and the significance of the appointment of the first Chinese-American to the top energy post in the Obama administration has immense significance. I would like to think this represents an excellent opportunity to coordinate energy policy and development.

Both the US and China, after all, are facing very similar energy-climate challenges–they are the top two emitters of greenhouse gases, rely heavily on foreign imports of oil and rely heavily on domestic coal resources as the predominant source of electric power, and now, seem poised to re-ope a new chapter of nuclear development.

That the face of U.S. energy policy is Asian could be and should be played to the advantage of strengthening clean energy cooperation between both the U.S. and China. Chu’s LBL has already a demonstrable commitment to China energy issues as evidenced by their China Energy Group (check out the fantastic China Energy Databook that you can order free of charge).

But the Department of Energy (DOE) is a funny animal.  Energy policy making remains the preserve of the U.S. Congress, the legislative branch of government.  As an administrative organ, the DOE is responsible for executing the laws passed by Congress.  Currently laws probably allow for some level of international dialogue and collaboration between both countries, but nothing beyond a token level, or certainly nothing beyond a level that we can and need to embark on to stem the energy-climate crisis.

Also, the DOE has been a technology-focused agency (and historically, particularly in nuclear energy development), administering energy technology R&D funds among various other administrative functions, but not necessarily engaging in the strategic clean energy planning that is required.

But this might change