Obama forms green cabinet

By Anna Austin
With the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the future of the U.S. energy industry appears bright, especially with the nominations of several cabinet members that have a history of supporting renewable energy and advanced biofuels.

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack was nominated as secretary of agriculture, a choice which has been positively received by multiple groups including Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association and the National Biodiesel Board. He served as governor from 1999 to 2007, was a founding member and chairman of the Governors Biotechnology Partnership, and a former chairman of the Governors' Ethanol Coalition (now called the Governor's Biofuels Coalition), the Midwest Governor's Conference and the National Governors Association's Natural Resources Committee.

"Vilsack is keenly aware of the benefits of agricultural biotechnology, and the role that science and innovation can play in helping farmers grow more food in a more environmentally friendly manner," the Biotechnology Industry Organization stated. "He is a strong proponent of ethanol production, and we are confident he will work to further diversify our nation's biofuels supply."

Steven Chu, professor of physics, and molecular and cellular biology at the University of California, Berkeley, has been nominated as secretary of energy. Since 2004, he has been director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a U.S. DOE-funded center of research into biofuels and solar energy technologies. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997 for the development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. He is also a former chairman of Stanford University's physics department.

"We believe that aggressive support of energy science and technology, coupled with incentives that accelerate the development and deployment of innovative solutions, can transform the entire landscape of energy demand and supply," Chu said in his acceptance speech. "What the world does in the coming decade will have enormous consequences that will last for centuries. It is imperative that we begin without further delay."

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., has been nominated as secretary of the interior. He has supported the creation of a clean and renewable energy economy, having successfully pushed for the passage of the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007, and the introduction of a tax measure to support cellulosic biofuel producers.

"Senator Salazar is uniquely qualified and experienced to serve as secretary of the interior," said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. "He serves on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and has been a strong proponent of expanding the development of renewable fuels."