January 14, 2009

Nobel Laureate Physicist Steve Chu Stresses ‘Aggressive Efforts to Increase Energy Efficiency’ as Critical to U.S. Energy Security and Economic Prosperity During Senate Confirmation Hearing

Chu Hailed As ‘Brilliant Thinker’ and ‘Uniquely Qualified’ for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy

WASHINGTON, D.C.— During his recent Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, Nobel Laureate Steve Chu, an acclaimed physicist and leader in energy research, said boosting development of energy efficient technologies is a critical part of President-Elect Obama’s plan to revitalize the economy and strengthen energy security.

Chu, the highly respected director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, pledged to implement Obama’s goals of increasing research and development of new energy technologies, developing fuel efficient vehicles and increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and appliances.

“These elements of President-elect Obama’s plan will put us on a course to a better energy and environmental future, create jobs and industries, restore U.S. energy technology leadership and help form the foundation for future economic prosperity,” said Chu during his hearing before members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

APS recently released a report titled, Energy Future: Think Efficiency, which also calls for an increased investment in energy efficiency to strengthen U.S. energy security and tackle global warming. 

Chu received hearty praise for his accomplishments during the packed hearing held in the Dirksen Building on Capitol Hill.

“There is no one brighter or more equipped than this man to become Secretary of Energy,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA) as she introduced Chu.

During her introductory remarks, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA) noted that Chu was the recipient of the prestigious APS Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in 1994. He also received another notable APS Award, the Herbert P. Broida Prize in 1987. 

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (NM), committee chairman, said Chu’s nomination comes at a pivotal time in the Energy Department’s history, explaining that it faces daunting challenges, including reducing the U.S. dependence on foreign oil, creating new sources of clean energy and developing more energy efficient technologies.  

“We are very fortunate to have a nominee of Dr. Chu’s high caliber to take on these responsibilities. He will bring to the job the keen scientific mind of a physicist and Nobel Laureate, the experience and understanding of the Department of Energy of a national laboratory director and the insight and vision needed to forge an energy policy for the 21st century,” said Bingaman. 

Chu also noted that he was a proud member of the committee that produced the landmark report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm.

“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.”

Chu’s scientific background is an impressive model for budding scientists.  In 1997 while at Stanford University, he was one of three scientists to win the Nobel Prize in physics for developing methods of cooling and trapping atoms with lasers – work that he carried out at the former AT&T Bell Laboratories.  Since 2004, he has served as director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which has 4,000 employees and a budget of $650 million.

Under his leadership, the lab has become a center for research into biofuels and solar energy technologies. A lifetime member and fellow of APS, Chu has been a staunch advocate of energy efficiency, nuclear energy and renewable energy to combat global warming and help the U.S. wean itself off foreign oil.

The Senate Committee on Energy and Resources is expected to vote on Chu’s nomination later this week, with the full Senate voting next week. Upon confirmation, Chu would become the first Nobel Laureate to be confirmed as a Cabinet member.


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The American Physical Society is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 53,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, D.C.