After eight years of party affiliation and loyalty being the main qualifiers for important political appointed positions, it's a relief to hear that the incoming Obama Administration is putting an actual scientist into the top spot at the Department of Energy.
Obama's choice of Steve Chu (ABC's Jake Tapper says Obama will announce the appointment today during a news conference) will send the clear message that Science once again have a seat at the tables of Washington power. The Bush Administration has never been afraid to let political considerations get in the way of good science, as recently a a few weeks ago they were called out by the Washington Post for shoveling political appointees into permanent spots within the government overseeing and writing scientific policies.
In one recent example, Todd Harding -- a 30-year-old political appointee at the Energy Department -- applied for and won a post this month at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There, he told colleagues in a Nov. 12 e-mail, he will work on "space-based science using satellites for geostationary and meteorological data." Harding earned a bachelor's degree in government from Kentucky's Centre College, where he also chaired the Kentucky Federation of College Republicans.
Also this month, Erik Akers, the congressional relations chief for the Drug Enforcement Administration, gained a permanent post at the agency after being denied a lower-level career appointment late last year.
He is a Nobel Prize winning experimental physicist who teaches at UC Berkeley and directs the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He's involved with the Bio-X Program at Stanford, which brings together experts in biology, engineering, information sciences, physics, chemistry, and medicine to collaborate and create new technologies and ways of doing things. That sounds exactly how the Department of Energy should run, what with them being faced with the mother of all energy crises and all.
Mr. Chu. has been criticized over the past couple of years for his involvement in bringing UC Berkeley hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate partnership money from oil giants BP and Exxon-Mobil to fund clean energy projects. Steve Bing withdrew a multi-million dollar donation to Stanford over a similar grant to that schools science program.
I'm willing to forgive him for his complicity in corporate green washing (Big Oil spend more money on advertising than the total outlay for the clean energy grants and WAY more on oil exploration), maybe I'm just so jaded from the Bush Administration that I'm ready to sign off on the first scientist walking by in a white lab coat. We'll see how he does.