Top energy and environmental posts named

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President-elect Barack Obama continues to name top officials for his incoming cabinet and advisors. The latest is his line-up includes his energy and environmental nominees. With the growing role of energy and environmental policy in rural America, the appointments are telling on what direction Obama may take in these areas.

Monday he officially announced that the nominees include Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy; Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator; Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change; and Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.

In making the announcement, Obama said the "future of our economy and national security is inextricably linked to one challenge: energy." He added, "The pursuit of a new energy economy requires a sustained, all-hands-on-deck effort because the foundation of our energy independence is right here, in America — in the power of wind and solar; in new crops and new technologies; in the innovation of our scientists and entrepreneurs, and the dedication and skill of our workforce."

Steven Chu

Dr. Steven Chu is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who recently led the Berkeley National Laboratory in pursuit of new alternative and renewable energies. "His appointment should send a signal to all that my Administration will value science, we will make decisions based on the facts, and we understand that the facts demand bold action," Obama said.

Chu is friendly to biofuels and renewable energy, particularly from biomass.

Lisa Jackson

As shown this past year, the role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator can be crucial for the future direction of rural America. Last year it was the EPA administrator who decided against granting a waiver on the Renewable Fuels Standard.

As Commissioner of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection, Jackson helped make her state a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing new sources of energy, Obama said. "Lisa also shares my commitment to restoring the EPA's robust role in protecting our air, water and abundant natural resources so that our environment is cleaner and our communities are safer," said Obama.

Jackson was one of the top names mentioned for the EPA post, and caused less concern for agriculture than some of her colleagues. In a statement from the Sierra Club, the organization said they have a "very close, very position relationship" with Jackson during her past eight years in New Jersey public service.

Carol Browner

The new White House energy, climate and environment "czarina" is Carol Browner, a new post to coordinate energy and climate policy. She holds the title of longest serving EPA administrator in history under the Clinton Administration.

Obama said she "understands that our efforts to create jobs, achieve energy security and combat climate change demand integration among different agencies; cooperation between federal, state and local governments; and partnership with the private sector. She will be indispensable in implementing an ambitious and complex energy policy."

Nancy Sutley

Obama named Nancy Sutley as the Chair of his Council on Environmental Quality in the White House. In making her announcement, Obama said Sutley has been on the cutting edge of efforts by states and cities to find innovative solutions on energy in her position as a Regional Administrator for the EPA, at the state level in Sacramento, and recently as the Deputy Mayor for Energy and the Environment in Los Angeles.

RFA response

The Renewable Fuels Association said it is "confident" that the energy and environment team Obama assembled shares his vision of a diverse energy portfolio, which includes today's grain ethanol and support for transitioning to second and third generation biofuels.

"We cannot let the recent dip in oil and energy prices divert our attention away from continuing to develop domestic renewable energy sources. While $40 oil is attainable, it is not sustainable," RFA said.
"Judging by the reported nominations of these well-qualified individuals, we believe President-elect Obama fully intends to build upon the successes renewable energy technologies like ethanol are achieving. We look forward to working with the Obama Administration to make the renewable fuels vision the president-elect detailed during the campaign a reality."

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