US Energy Secretary resigns

02 February 2013, Sweetcrude, Houston – US Energy Secretary, Noble laureate Steven Chu announced his resignation on Friday as President Barack Obama continues to revamp his cadre of top energy advisors.

Chu’s resignation, which was expected, follows the announced departures of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson. Salazar will leave at the end of March and Jackson will go in the middle of this month.

In a letter to Energy Department employees, Chu said he would stay on at least until the end of February.

“I may stay beyond that time so that I can leave the Department in the hands of the new Secretary,” he wrote: “Serving the country as Secretary of Energy, and working alongside such an extraordinary team of people at the Department, has been the greatest privilege of my life.

“While the job has had many challenges, it has been an exciting time for the Department, the country, and for me personally.”

Obama said in a statement that Chu “brought to the Energy Department a unique understanding of both the urgent challenge presented by climate change and the tremendous opportunity that clean energy represents for our economy and… helped my administration move America towards real energy independence”.

Whoever replaces Chu, a Noble laureate, will be faced with a number of hot-button political energy issues, most notably decisions on whether to allow unfettered exports of LNG, made possible by the shale-gas boom that developed during Chu’s tenure.

Among those thought to be in the running to replace Chu are Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman; former North Dakota senator Byron Dorgan; Dan Reicher of Stanford University and the former head of climate and energy initiatives for Google; and Sue Tierney, who was the Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for policy under President Bill Clinton.

In his resignation letter, Chu expressed pride in the advances the US had made under his watch towards energy independence.

“Some of those goals have been realised, and we have planted many seeds together. Just as today’s boom in shale gas production was made possible by Department of Energy research from 1978 to 1991, some of the most significant work may not be known for decades. What matters is that our country will reap the benefits of what we have started,” he wrote.

Chu, who has been an outspoken supporter of renewable technologies and was embroiled in the controversial loan to failed solar manufacturer Solyndra, also warned of the US’ continued dependence on oil.

“Although our oil imports are projected to fall to a 25-year low next year, we still pay a heavy economic, national security and human cost for our oil addiction,” he said.

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