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April 6, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Obama’s new green team appointees

So, a fortnight has passed already and its time for your second official instalment of environment column goodness. This week, with Salient’s focus on Barack Obama, we decided to take a look at who Obama has appointed to key environment-focused positions within his administration.

President Obama has signalled a new direction for the United States of America. Compared to the previous Administration—which clearly lacked the will and the understanding of the need for urgency for environmental change—Obama has selected some strong environmental advocates for his Administration.

Obama’s choice for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Administrator is Lisa Jackson, former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. As commissioner, she had set state targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent below 2006 by 2050, to combat climate change.

Jackson has a Master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton and has wanted to use her degree to help reduce pollution. However, critics have claimed that she failed to protect the public from toxic waste in her previous role as commissioner. She will need to make some tough choices in her new role and hopefully will prove her critics wrong.

Obama’s next choice is Dr Steven Chu. Chu is a Nobel-laureate for Physics, and is Obama’s Energy Secretary. Chu clearly understands the urgent need for action with regards to climate change. He is an advocate for alternative energy, including biofuels and solar power. He is the first person to be appointed to the Cabinet after winning a Nobel prize. It is believed that he will invest billions of dollars into renewable energy projects and create millions of new jobs in the green economy.

Chu’s academic career saw him receive an A.B. degree in mathematics, a degree in physics from the University of Rochester, a Ph.D in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as honorary degrees from 10 other universities.

Critics have labelled his appointment as a sign that science will once again be valued in the US Administration. Margie Alt said Chu’s appointment as represented “a 180-degree turnaround for the United States on the environment and energy policy.”

Another member of Obama’s green team is Nancy Sutley, former Deputy Mayor for Energy and Environment in Los Angeles. She leads the Council on Environmental Quality. Being the first openly gay person to be appointed in a senior role in Obama’s new administration, she has a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Harvard University, and worked as an EPA official during the Clinton administration.

The Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change is Carol Browner. This is a newly created position which will help connect energy and climate work across the federal government. Browner is an experienced environmentalist and was previously the longest serving Administrator of the EPA during the entire Clinton administration. She is a strong critic of President Bush, and has labelled him as heading the “worst environmental administration ever”.

John Flicker, the President of the US National Audubon Society has said that “Carol Browner is an outstanding choice to direct the integration of energy and environmental policy and to reposition the US as a leader in addressing global warming. No one is better suited to addressing these challenges than Carol Browner. As the very successful and longest serving administrator of the EPA, Carol Browner has a proven track record of success. She is a skilled and pragmatic leader who gets results.”

Clearly time will tell how well Obama’s new green team will fare, but his choices obviously understand the need for urgency for change. It is a refreshing change from the Bush Administration and one that could not have come at a better time in history. The issues that will face the world in this time of environmental crisis will need strong leadership. Let us hope that Obama has made some good choices.

“Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.” —Dave Barry


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  1. Kerry says:

    Tush, was that your Dave Barry quote? :-D

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