Press Releases

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) testified today on behalf of Dr. Steven Chu, head of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Energy -- praising him as “persistent, persuasive, and passionate about science,” and “one of the great, brilliant thinkers of his generation.”

Senator Feinstein’s remarks were made in testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

“Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Senator Murkowski, and Members of the Committee. Not only is it my honor to introduce to you a constituent, but in the interest of full disclosure, Dr. Steven Chu and his wife, Jean, are friends. So this is very easy for me, and I am delighted to be able to introduce him to you at this time.

Simply stated, in my opinion, there is no one brighter or better equipped than this man to become Secretary of Energy. Dr. Chu is persistent, persuasive, and passionate about science, and I think you’ll find that his determination is infectious.  He also has the power to inspire action and produce change.  He is certain to marshal enthusiasm and leadership when he takes the helm at the Energy Department.

Dr. Chu received a PhD in physics from UC Berkeley.  He has spent the bulk of his academic career at Stanford University and the University of California, where he heads the pioneering Lawrence Berkeley Lab.

At both schools, Dr. Chu is considered one of the great, brilliant thinkers of his generation. And his contributions to the field of science are internationally renowned. As Senator Murkowski stated, in 1997, Dr. Chu’s research was recognized with the Nobel Prize in Physics.

In 2004, the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab recruited Dr. Steven Chu to run the lab.  His directorship has been nothing short of revolutionary.  Dr. Chu has initiated and encouraged brainstorming sessions across scientific disciplines. He convinced great scientists from bio-technology, pharmaceuticals, and nanotechnology to switch specialties and work together to address our nation’s energy challenges.

When Dr. Chu first arrived, the lab didn’t push the scientific envelope of renewable energy technology.  Today, that’s all changed.  Dr. Chu has called global warming and the need for carbon-neutral renewable energy “the greatest challenge facing science” and has rallied his team of scientists to address it. This collaboration has created cutting-edge ideas, which he then fought to fund. 

He helped secure a $500 million BP grant for a biosciences institute and successfully established one of the Department of Energy’s Joint Bio-energy Institutes.

And his efforts have yielded real results:

  • At the Bioenergy Research Center, our best scientists are working to crack the mystery behind how enzymes in termites turn wood into energy.
  • Lawrence Berkeley researchers have developed a new battery technology that holds 10 times the amount of electricity of existing batteries. 
  • The lab scientists are even exploring – and might be able to bring to reality – the idea of artificial photosynthesis.

There is no doubt that we need a scientist of Dr. Chu’s caliber at the Department of Energy to bring these kinds of ideas to the national level.

Let me just mention one other pressing issue Dr. Chu will face at the Energy Department, and that’s nuclear policy.

The Cold War is over, but there remain thousands of dangerous missiles in the world’s arsenals – most maintained by the United States and Russia. Most are targeted at cities, and are far more powerful than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today, the threat is ever more complex. As more nations pursue nuclear ambitions, the world becomes less secure.

The Obama administration, under Steve Chu’s leadership at the Energy Department, has the opportunity to develop a new, bi-partisan policy that will determine the role nuclear weapons will play in our nation’s security strategy, and the size of the future stockpile.

By law President-Elect Obama must set forth his views on nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy, in his Nuclear Posture Review, by 2010.

President-Elect Obama should move the United States closer to the dream of one of his predecessors, Ronald Reagan, who in his second inaugural declared: “We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.”

I think Dr. Chu – a physicist who understands nuclear technology far better than I – will bring a valuable perspective to our efforts to reduce the nuclear threat.

So I look forward to working with him. It’s just a delight to introduce him to you, Mr. Chairman. I know that my colleague, Senator Boxer, is here. California is worse off for his loss, but the Energy Department much better off.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.”