Energy Secretary Steven Chu resigned Friday after a four-year tenure during which he handed out tens of billions of dollars of grants and loans to foster renewable energy technologies — and ended up fostering controversy over whether the money was well spent.
The Nobel Prize-winning physicist, who was brought to Washington by President Obama because of Chu’s deep concern about climate change, found himself embroiled in controversy over a half-billion-dollar loan to solar-panel-maker Solyndra, which went bankrupt.
But the president stood by Chu, who shared his belief that the administration needed to turn more of the nation’s investment toward renewable energy and to set tougher efficiency standards for appliances. Under Chu, the department also issued a loan guarantee for the construction of a nuclear power plant and a controversial permit for a company to export liquefied natural gas.
Chu’s resignation intensified speculation over his replacement. Obama might pick another scientist such as Ernie Moniz, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who served as undersecretary of energy under President Bill Clinton and who more recently served as a member of Chu’s blue ribbon commission on nuclear power and waste disposal.