Freedom New Mexico
With his choices of top aides in the areas of economics and national security, President-elect Barack Obama veered toward the center of the Democratic Party. He’s mostly appointed people who initially supported the misbegotten Iraq war (and keeping nominal Republican Robert Gates on) to national security posts and people with Clinton-era experience to positions dealing with economic issues.
In fact, certain elements of the “netroots” and the markedly leftist wing of the party were showing a certain amount of restiveness.
With his choices in the energy and environmental fields, however, he should put such discontent to rest. As the ever-so-green Web site Forecast Earth put it, these choices “suggest Barack Obama is going to be progressive where it really counts.”
Stephen Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, former chair of the physics department at Stanford and the 1997 Nobel Prize winner in physics, certainly seems qualified to be Secretary of Energy (if there should be such a position). He heads a laboratory that is part of the Department of Energy, so he is likely to know some of the ropes already.
It should concern taxpayers, however, that in addition to having developed a keen concern about climate change in the last few years, he is an enthusiastic advocate of aggressively developing non-petroleum alternative fuels. Besides funding research, that is likely to include major taxpayer subsidies.
As Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute reminded, however, the government has been subsidizing alternative and renewable energy for 30 years, and progress has been minimal.
“I think we would have been further ahead on renewables without government subsidies,” he said. “The companies that get these subsidies are seldom competitive or entrepreneurial, focusing on pleasing politicians more than bringing products to market.”
Carol Browner, head of the Environmental Protection Agency for eight years under Clinton, will fill a new White House post overseeing and coordinating energy, environmental and climate change policies. She was brought into the Clinton administration by Al Gore. Does she share his extreme views on the need to get rid of petroleum-based energy in 10 years?
Lisa Jackson, now chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, is slated to head the EPA. Nancy Sutley, now a Los Angeles deputy mayor for environmental affairs, will chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Their experience suggests their skills are more political than scientific.
The financial crisis suggests modesty in expanding programs and regulations that increase the cost of doing business. Obama’s choices in energy and environmental affairs suggest a more aggressive, expensive and probably ineffective approach.