Obama starts filling energy team

By Tom Doggett
Wednesday, December 10, 2008; 7:45 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama will nominate Steven Chu, a Nobel physics laureate and advocate of alternative energy research, as his energy secretary, a Democratic aide said on Wednesday.

Chu, who would be the first Asian-American to lead the department, would work closely with former Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner, who will head a new council coordinating White House policy on energy, climate and environmental issues.

Obama, who has said energy and environmental matters would be important to his administration, is filling out the team that will oversee them.

He wants to spend billions of dollars to promote alternative energy sources and create millions of green energy jobs.

Lisa Jackson, the chief of staff for New Jersey's governor, will also be nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency, a Democratic aide confirmed. She would be the first African-American to lead that agency.

Earlier, a Democratic official said Obama had chosen Nancy Sutley, a deputy mayor of Los Angeles, to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Browner, a principal at global strategy firm The Albright Group LLC, heads Obama's advisory team on energy and the environment. During President Bill Clinton's administration, she became the longest-serving EPA administrator.

Chu, whose appointment requires U.S. Senate confirmation, shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics for developing methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light and has been director of the Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California since 1994.

The laboratory's website said Chu was an early advocate for finding scientific solutions to climate change and had guided the laboratory on a new mission to become the world leader in alternative and renewable energy research, particularly the development of carbon-neutral sources of energy.

A spokesman for the Lawrence Berkeley laboratory said of Chu's selection: "We don't really know about it. Whatever contacts the Obama people have had with Steve Chu, he kept it offline from the laboratory."

Chu could not be reached for comment. He is traveling in Asia and Europe and will be back at work on Monday.

Jackson was New Jersey's environmental protection commissioner until she became the governor's chief of staff this month. She previously worked at the federal EPA for almost two decades.

(Writing by Tom Doggett, additional reporting by Deborah Charles; Editing by David Alexander and Peter Cooney)

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