A sterling team on energy, environment

A STERLING TEAM ON ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT…. There’s been some disagreement in progressive circles about the strength of some of Barack Obama’s early cabinet picks, but it’s probably safe to say the vast majority of those on the left will be doing cartwheels in response to the president-elect’s environmental team.

President-elect Barack Obama has selected his top energy and environmental advisers, including a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, presidential transition officials said Wednesday.

Collectively, they will have the task of carrying out Mr. Obama’s stated intent to curb global warming emissions drastically while fashioning a more efficient national energy system. And they will be able to work with strong allies in Congress who are interested in developing climate-change legislation, despite fierce economic headwinds that will amplify objections from manufacturers and energy producers.

The officials said Mr. Obama would name Steven Chu, the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, as his energy secretary, and Nancy Sutley, deputy mayor of Los Angeles for energy and environment, as head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Mr. Obama also appears ready to name Carol M. Browner, the E.P.A. administrator under President Bill Clinton, as the top White House official on climate and energy policy and Lisa P. Jackson, New Jersey’s commissioner of environmental protection, as the head of the E.P.A.

The Wall Street Journal, noting these officials, reported that Obama “appears to be moving to the left” with this energy/environmental team, “after his early cabinet choices were widely seen as centrist and moderate.”

Chances are, the only folks who are going to complain about this team are polluters and global-warming deniers. Given the severity of the climate crisis, and the ambitious quality of Obama’s energy vision, he couldn’t have picked a better team. These aren’t officials you pick if you intend to just make a few tepid changes around the periphery of energy policy; these are officials you pick to overhaul the system and implement a bold, 21st-century agenda.

I often turn to Grist to read up on environmental analysis, and the team over there seems elated by Obama’s new team. Here’s Joseph Romm on Chu; here’s Janet Wilson on Sutley; and here’s Kate Sheppard on Jackson.

For the diversity minded, I’d also note that Chu will be the second Asian-American member of Obama’s cabinet; Sutley will be the first openly-gay person to serve in any cabinet; Jackson will be the first African American to head the EPA; and three of the four officials on Obama’s energy/environmental team are women.

Pay particular attention, by the way, to Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu at Energy. Yglesias is right that the Energy Secretary has “pretty limited” responsibilities, but given this guy’s considerable skills, here’s hoping that the Obama administration offers Chu an opportunity to expand the office to new heights.