DOE Chief Chu Adds Political Muscle with New Advisory Board

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Steve Chu has a new set of advisors, the Department of Energy announced today. The twelve-member board is surprisingly old-guard for a DOE chief from outside the Beltway.

These are insiders who know how to fight in Washington's trenches. They are not Silicon Valley. They are not really innovators, aside from Art Rosenfeld and Nick Donofrio. Energy may be an avocation for many on the list, but few have dedicated their lives to the field.

A couple of examples to make the point: John Deutch advised Jimmy Carter on energy, then went on to helm the CIA under Bill Clinton. William Perry served as Secretary of Defense in the 1990s and is affiliated with the Hoover Institution. Norm Augustine was the CEO of Lockheed Martin, an under secretary for the Army, and chaired a controversial panel on NASA's future last year. If Augustine were a Pulp Fiction character, he would be The Wolf (Harvey Keitel), the mob fixer brought in to clean up messes.

Here is the full Secretary of Energy Advisory Board:

  • Norman Augustine, Former Chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin
  • Ralph Cicerone, President of National Academy of Sciences
  • John Deutch, MIT Chemist, Former Under Secretary of Energy
  • Nicholas Donofrio, Former EVP of Innovation and Technology, IBM
  • Alexis Herman, Former Secretary of Labor
  • Chad Holliday, Jr., Former CEO of Dupont
  • Michael McQuade, Senior VP, United Technologies Corporation
  • William Perry, Former Secretary of Defense, Stanford University Professor
  • Arthur Rosenfeld, Former Commissioner, California Energy Commission
  • Susan Tierney, Managing Principle, Analysis Group
  • Steven Westly, Managing Partner, Westly Group
  • Daniel Yergin, President, Cambridge Energy Research Associates

Nominally, the group will "provide advice and recommendations to the Secretary on the Department's basic and applied research, economic and national security policy, educational issues, [and] operational issues."

But looking over this list, it seems obvious that Secretary Chu is gearing up for a new political battle and realized that he needed a little more Beltway muscle.

Image: Department of Energy.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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