White House: Yes, Secretary Chu is out at DOE

Another of President Obama’s first-term picks is packing up and leaving. This time, it’s Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who will leave as head of the Department of Energy (DOE), the White House confirmed Friday.

Chu wrote in his resignation letter of his intent to remain on duty “past the end of February” to help find his replacement.

Critics, mostly Republicans, slammed Chu’s handling of the $528 million federal loan to the now bankrupt solar panel maker Solyndra and accused the administration of pushing through the loan approval without proper vetting. The Obama administration repeatedly touted the company as a model for clean energy. Solyndra was the first renewable energy company to receive a loan guarantee under the 2009 stimulus, and Chu attended the groundbreaking when the loan was announced. In 2011 Solyndra filed for bankruptcy.

After Friday’s announcement, the president issued a statement on Chu’s accomplishments.

“During his time as Secretary, Steve helped my administration move America towards real energy independence,” Obama said. “Over the past four years, we have doubled the use of renewable energy, dramatically reduced our dependence on foreign oil, and put our country on a path to win the global race for clean energy jobs.”

Chu, a Nobel Prize winner in physics and a former director of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, with his exit leaves vacancies in the top three departments that oversee U.S. policy on energy and the environment. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson recently announced their departures, as well. 

The White House said no decisions have been made on replacements for the environmental and energy jobs. Potential replacements for Chu include former North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Sources inside the power industry, meanwhile, are voicing support for Duke Energy Corp. Chairman, President and CEO Jim Rogers.

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