Steven Chu

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Steven Chu
12th United States Secretary of Energy
From: January 21, 2009-Present
President Barack Hussein Obama
Predecessor Samuel Bodman
Successor Incumbent (no successor)
Party Democrat
Spouse(s) Lisa Chu-Thielbar (divorced)
Jean Fetter (1997-present)

Steven Chu (b. February 28, 1948) was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a 1997 Nobel Prize-winning physicist, former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Obama Administration's Secretary of Energy. The Department of Energy is at the center of U.S. efforts to end the U.S.'s dependence on foreign oil, roll back climate change, and create new "green" jobs, using stimulus funds already passed by Congress. He seeks technological solutions to energy issues:[1]

"Our dependency on foreign oil, our national security, our economic prosperity, and the climate-change issues—these aren't ultimately political questions. This is a way into the 21st century, a way to regain our technological leadership, regain our high- quality manufacturing leadership that we have lost, all of these things, as well as helping save the world."

Chu favors nuclear energy and the Department of Energy in Jan. 2010 is setting up $20 billion in loan guarantees for the nuclear industry in order to shift energy priorities. The environmental left is angry because the older generation of 1960s activists is vehemently opposed to anything nuclear.[Citation Needed]

Views on Energy and Transportation

  • Chu is strongly promoting engineering solutions, explaining in April 2009, "We haven't taken full advantage of the technologies that exist today. They haven't been integrated into making smarter buildings that can be 60, 80 percent more energy-efficient than existing buildings."[2]

Chu said, "Coal is My Worst Nightmare." [3] If coal is to stay part of the world’s energy mix, he says, clean-coal technologies must be developed. But he’s not optimistic: "It’s not guaranteed we have a solution for coal," he concluded, given the sheer scope of the challenge of economically storing billions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions underground. Asked how to get off coal he responded:[4]

"We can have renewables. We have nuclear power. During the nighttime when there's less demand for electricity, we'll be plugging our cars into these and charging them up so that that nuclear power can be used in a much better way. Storage technology will be incredibly useful and needed as transient renewables become a larger portion of our energy budget."

As an adviser to president-elect Barack Hussein Obama, a Jan. 17, 2008 statement was crafted to the San Francisco Chronicle that Obama planned pollution taxes that would “bankrupt” anyone who tried to build a coal-powered plant.

In October 2008, Chu spoke about how uneconomical battery-powered cars are. Chu said, "Current batteries for hybrid and electric cars last just five to six years, take a car only 40 miles on a charge—and cost $10,000. These aren’t going to sweep the market." [5]

Chu has called for gradually ramping up gasoline taxes over 15 years to coax consumers into buying more-efficient cars, and living in neighborhoods closer to work. "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe," he said before becoming Secretary of Energy. [6] Chu has been reluctant to embrace nuclear power, even though it emits no greenhouse gases, out of concerns with disposing its waste and the risk of nuclear proliferation. "The waste and proliferation issues [surrounding nuclear power] still haven’t been completely solved," he said. A major role of his Department of Energy is to oversee nuclear weapons and waste storage. The Obama campaign made clear that increased reliance on nuclear power will require finding a "safe" way to dispose of radioactive waste.


  • 1970 graduate in mathematics and physics from the University of Rochester
  • He earned his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Professor of physics, and of molecular and cell biology at University of California, Berkeley
  • Worked at AT&T's Bell Labs in the 1980s [7]
  • Chu helped create the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) at UC-Berkeley, the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, and the University of Illinois — a far-ranging $500 million project researching alternative fuels funded by BP (formerly British Petroleum). EBI investigates ways to use grasses instead of corn to make biofuel ethanol more efficiently with less environmental and economic impact
  • Member of Copenhagen Climate Council: a private collaboration between science and business to promote a 2009 UN global warming projects.


  • "The world needs a "revolution" in science and technology to solve global warming" [8]
  • "a price must be put on carbon "without loopholes"
  • "The Golden State could become a desert wasteland, with no more winter salad greens from its parched Central Valley or wines from its withered Napa-Sonoma vineyards, before this century ends unless America takes drastic steps to slow global warming"

Further reading

  • Zakaria, Fareed. "In the Great Ship Titanic: Nobel physicist Steven Chu is out to revitalize U.S. industry and save the world—if he can." Newsweek Apr 20, 2009


  1. Zakaria (2009)
  2. Zakaria (2009)
  4. Zakaria (2009)
  6. see WJS Dec. 12, 2008
  7. Profile: Steven Chu BBC, December 16, 2008
  8. Steven Chu calls for alt-energy "revolution" Scientific American February 12, 2009