- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Beginning today, reporter Tom LoBianco will provide a weekly look at energy and environmental issues on Capitol Hill.

President-elect Barack Obama’s picks to implement his energy and environmental priorities go before two Senate committees this week.

Steven Chu, Mr. Obama’s pick to lead the Department of Energy, gets vetted by senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.

Lisa Jackson, Mr. Obama’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and Nancy Sutley, his choice to chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality, get their hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Wednesday.

Also, Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, Mr. Obama’s choice to run the Interior Department, gets his hearing before the Senate energy committee.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico Democrat, who chairs the Senate energy committee, said last week he doesn’t foresee any roadblocks for either Mr. Chu or Mr. Salazar.

Although a president-elect cannot formally nominate anyone to any Cabinet post, the Senate routinely vets his picks in the run-up to the presidential inauguration.

Senators tax poetic

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer drenched New York Times columnist Tom Friedman in praise for his ability to make the nation’s environmental challenges sing.

The California senator coined Mr. Friedman’s description of the nation’s environmental and economic woes “poetry,” even asking Mr. Friedman to repeat his prose for Delaware Sen. Thomas R. Carper, who had missed the author’s opening statement.

While the prolific New York Times columnist waxed about regaining America’s innovative edge through a “green” technology revolution, his precursor for change - establishing a pricing system for carbon pollution, either by tax or cap-and-trade permit - has not had quite as much of an appreciative audience in Senates past.

“Without a price signal, it will not happen at [the] speed and scope necessary,” Mr. Friedman told the senators last week.

Mr. Friedman was one of just two to testify at the congressional briefing Wednesday, joining green-technology venture capitalist Jonathan Doerr, whose previous investments have included Google and Amazon.com.

None of the committee’s Republican members showed up for the briefing last week.

Some light reading

The Department of Energy’s new volume compiling the nation’s energy discoveries in the past 10 years - “Decade of Discovery” - has all the high-gloss, quality photos and diagrams to make an excellent coffee-table book for anyone willing to get around the advanced physics and chemistry.

While much of the department’s focus is on monitoring the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpiles and other key national security areas, the brains at the 17 research laboratories collaborate on scientific priorities from developing cleaner fuels to treating cancer.

As evidenced last month, the nation’s top energy white coats have some political flex, too: Mr. Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is expected to glide through the confirmation process to become the next energy secretary.

“As a nation, we will continue to depend on the power and promise of science and engineering to push back the boundaries of what is possible,” said outgoing Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman. “And therefore we will continue to depend on our National Laboratories and the remarkable men and women who work there.”

• E-mail Tom LoBianco or call 202-636-4891.

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