Steven Chu takes the stand

Obama's pick for energy secretary tells a Republican senator from Alaska that energy efficiency, not increased domestic production, is the key to decreased dependence on foreign oil.

By Andrew Leonard

Published January 13, 2009 4:06PM (EST)

The CSPAN 3 streaming feed of Dr. Steven Chu's confirmation hearing for energy secretary kept dropping the audio during initial statements by the senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, so I'm managing to only hear snippets. This is frustrating because listening to Chu is like listening to a dream.

From Chu's opening statement:

Elements of [President-elect Obama's] plan include a greater commitment to wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy resources. Aggressive efforts to increase energy efficiency of our appliances and buildings. More efficient cars and trucks and a push to develop plug in hybrids. Greater investment in technology to capture and store carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. A continued commitment to nuclear power and a longterm plan for waste disposal. Responsible development of domestic oil and natural gas. Increased commitment to research and development of new alternative energy technologies. A smarter and more robust transmission and distribution system, and a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions. Taken together, these elements of President-elect Obama's plan will put us on a course to a better energy and environmental future, create new jobs and industries, restore U.S. energy technology leadership and help form the foundation of our future economic prosperity. It will be my primary goal to make the U.S. Department of Energy the leader in these efforts.

Unsurprisingly, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the ranking Republican on the committee, picked up on Chu's comment on "responsible development of domestic oil." She asked if, given that commitment, Chu would join "us" in "opposing a reinstatement of the ban on offshore oil production, and encouraging greater production of domestic resources, both onshore and offshore."

Chu acknowledged that the president-elect had said he supports "looking at oil production and gas production both on- and offshore as part of comprehensive energy policy." But then he immediately pivoted.

But I should also say, Senator, as you well know, the reserves of the United States are approximately 3 percent of the world's reserve, and the numbers from 2005 suggest that something like five percent of the world production of oil comes from the the United States. So while it is important to fold into this the continued development of oil and gas resources one should also recognize those numbers. The more efficient use of energy in United States is the one factor that can most decrease our dependence on foreign oil.

As you well know!

And then the sound died on my audio feed again. More later if warranted and audible.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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