Beleaguered Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced his resignation from President Obama’s Cabinet Friday after a tenure marred with criticisms over his handling of federal energy subsidies and the Solyndra solar-energy affair.
“While the job has had many challenges, it has been an exciting time for the department, the country and for me personally,” Mr. Chu, a Nobel Prize laureate in physics, said in a statement. He said he intends to stay on board “past the end of February” until the president finds a successor.
President Obama, who now faces the task of replacing his entire top energy and environmental team with the departures of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, said in a statement that Mr. Chu helped America “move towards real energy independence” during his tenure as secretary.
“Over the past four years, we have doubled the use of renewable energy, dramatically reduced our dependence on foreign oil and put our country on a path to win the global race for clean energy jobs,” Mr. Obama said.
But Mr. Chu’s service was tarnished by his role in approving a loan of more than $528 million for Solyndra, the California solar-energy firm that went bankrupt in 2011. Solyndra was the first renewable-energy company to receive a loan guarantee under the administration’s 2009 economic stimulus law, and Obama officials hailed it as a model of its clean-energy initiatives. It turned out that the Energy Department rushed a decision to approve the loan guarantee; 1,100 employees lost their jobs when the firm collapsed.
Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Government and Oversight Committee, said the Energy Department’s direction under Mr. Chu has been “disconcerting.”
“While many will remember Secretary Chu for his comments about the need to raise gas prices on American consumers and the high grades he publicly bestowed on himself, I found taxpayer losses on projects like Solyndra and the department’s deeply misguided effort to use taxpayer dollars as an investment bank for unproven technologies to be the most problematic aspects of his legacy,” Mr. Issa said.
Mr. Issa also said e-mails uncovered from Energy Department employees “revealed a culture that looked to White House officials, and not the secretary, as key decision-makers on loan issues for politically connected companies seeking assistance.”