Browner, Jackson/Getty Images; Chu, Salazar/Associated Press

Green team

Cover story sidebar | Each of Obama's picks for energy and environment posts ascribe to the school of "environment first, economy third"

Issue: "The Obama era," Feb. 14, 2009

Many of President Obama's cabinet and advisor selections have displeased the far-left bloc of his supporters. Not so his energy and environment picks, each of whom ascribe to the school of "environment first, economy third," says conservative analyst Ben Lieberman of the Heritage Foundation. Ken Salazar, a former Colorado senator now confirmed as secretary of the interior, developed an adversarial relationship with the Bush administration for his work to slow oil shale development in the Green River Formation of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. He has resisted specific stateside oil drills and opposed lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling even if gasoline prices should rise as high as $10 per gallon. Salazar, 53, often talks a more moderate game, claiming general support for domestic drilling and oil shale development, but his record is lockstep with leftist environmentalism.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, 60, the former director of the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, shares Salazar's penchant for moderate rhetoric but has occasionally betrayed sympathy for global warming alarmism and its attendant policies. A Nobel Prize winner in physics, Chu embodies Obama's stated commitment for science-driven climate policy. Accordingly, economic considerations may take a back seat as they did last September when Chu advocated finding ways to elevate gas prices to European levels. At his confirmation hearing, he vowed to press for a U.S. cap-and-trade program, despite evidence of dramatic financial repercussions from that carbon-cutting strategy in Europe.

Lisa Jackson, 40, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has promised to "immediately revisit" the decision of her predecessor to deny California's petition to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from new cars and trucks. A reversal of that ruling could crush U.S. automakers.

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The uniform green philosophy among Obama's energy and environment team is reflected and underscored in his choice of Carol Browner, 53, as White House climate and energy czar. Browner, who requires no confirmation hearing, served as EPA head in Bill Clinton's administration and procured the power for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.


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