- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 13, 2009

UPDATED:

President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to head the Energy Department told senators Tuesday that developing “clean coal” technology must be a national priority and said that the incoming administration continues to support offshore oil exploration.

Steven Chu, Mr. Obama’s designated energy secretary, also said Congress should maintain and expand its nuclear loan program and include offshore oil production as part of a broader national energy plan.

“I think it is imperative to use coal as cleanly as possible,” Mr. Chu said Tuesday at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico Democrat and chairman of the committee, said he expects unanimous confirmation of Mr. Chu next week. The committee’s ranking Republican, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, was also broadly supportive of Mr. Chu’s nomination.

Mr. Chu clarified previous remarks he had made that coal was his “worst nightmare,” saying that the nation will have to rely on coal power while it develops alternative energy sources and improves energy efficiency.

Mr. Chu is the first member of Mr. Obama’s energy and environment team to be questioned by lawmakers. Mr. Obama’s picks to head the Environmental Protection Agency and the Council on Environmental Quality go before senators Wednesday.

Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, suggested Mr. Obama’s energy “czar,” Carol M. Browner, come before the committee, too. Members of the White House staff such as Ms. Browner are not required to be confirmed by the Senate and usually do not testify before they take their jobs.