Gore says no to ‘Climate Czar’ role

President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is flirting with creating a White House “Climate Czar,” but climate change crusader Al Gore says he doesn’t want the job.

The Obama team declined to comment on such a post, even as environmentalists and power industry executives say it’s being widely discussed inside the transition offices as a way to spur a clean energy industry, which Mr. Obama has promised will ween the U.S. from foreign oil and create millions of “green jobs.”

Obama transition chief John Podesta promoted a similar idea earlier in his role as president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank.

Mr. Podesta authored a white paper calling for an Energy Security Council within the White House to oversee climate change and clean energy initiatives. The czar and the council would coordinate agencies, including the Energy and Interior departments and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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The obvious choice to lead the council is Mr. Gore, whose campaign to address climate change earned him the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. But the former vice president is taking a pass.

“Former Vice President Gore does not intend to seek or accept any formal position in government,” Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider said. “He feels very strong right now that the best thing for him to do is to build support for the bold changes that we have to make to solve the climate crisis.”

Mr. Obama foreshadowed the new post on the campaign trail in April when he told a voter that Mr. Gore would be offered a special Cabinet post overseeing climate change.

“Al Gore will be at the table and play a central part in us figuring out how we solve this problem,” Mr. Obama said.

With Mr. Gore out of the running for an administration job, leading candidates for the post likely include former EPA chief Carol M. Browner, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Other names mentioned for czar or membership in the energy council include World Resources Institute President Jonathan Lash, former Pennsylvania Environment Secretary Kathleen McGinty and California Air Resources Board chief Mary D. Nichols.

The Obama transition team declined to comment on administration jobs or who would fill them, stressing instead the next president’s commitment to fulfilling campaign promises for clean energy.

“Obama has outlined an aggressive energy and climate agenda and will put the resources in place in his administration to achieve those goals,” Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Environmental advocacy groups are clamoring for the new White House post to raise the profile of energy and environmental policy.

“There’s clearly a pent-up demand for things that got blocked during the Bush years,” Sierra Club spokesman Josh Dorner said.

Mr. Obama, taking a page from Mr. Gore’s script, has argued that an energy policy strikes the confluence of economic, national security and environmental challenges facing the country.

“Finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There´s no better driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy,” Mr. Obama told Time magazine shortly before the election. “That´s going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office.”

About the Author
Tom LoBianco

Tom LoBianco

Tom LoBianco has covered energy and environmental policy, including the climate change bill making its way through Congress. From 2007 to 2008, he covered Maryland politics from the Times’s Annapolis bureau. Tom hold’s a master’s degree in political science from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park. He spent two and a ...

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