Chu likely on the way out as Energy secretary

President Obama is going to have some serious decisions to make on energy policy in his second go-around, especially in terms of the degree to which Americans will be permitted to take advantage of our abundant natural resources and the pending energy boom. I don’t think anybody is holding their breath that the Obama administration will finally phase out government, i.e. taxpayer, “investments” in green energy ventures, but there are still a lot of uncertainties surrounding offshore and terrestrial permitting, natural gas exports, environmental regulations, efficiency standards, all sorts of subsidies, and etcetera.

Secretary Steven Chu has had a pretty rocky tenure as head of Obama’s Department of Energy; the many ailing and failing stimulus recipients the DOE backed as part of their green energy loan guarantee program brought a lot of scrutiny on the Obama administration’s obviously political calculus in frittering away taxpayer dollars. He may be a Nobel-prize winning scientist, but his prowess as a cabinet-level manager has been roundly criticized, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to re-up:

Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter is on the short list of candidates to become the next secretary of energy, according to media reports.

Ritter is director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. He also is a member of the board of directors of the Energy Foundation and is a senior fellow and board member of the Advanced Energy Economy Institute. …

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu may be leaving the post during the next term of the Obama administration. Among those on the list to replace Chu are Ritter; Tom Steyer, a Democrat from California; former North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan; Susan Tierney, a former assistant energy secretary; and Steve Westley, a California businessman, according to The Washington Post.

Much of the drilling-related minutiae and land-use policies come out of the Department of Interior, however, and apparently the president is fine with where Salazar has taken the department, as he seems to have the go-ahead to stay on if he so desires:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he’s still mulling whether to serve another term atop the department.

“We are thinking hard about it,” Salazar said in the Capitol Tuesday evening.

“My family and I are having lots of great conversations,” he said when asked whether he planned to stick around.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (who’s being investigated for her sketchy use of an alias e-mail account for official EPA business, hem hem), has been every bit the zealous, regulation-loving environmentalist advocate, but her future still seems to be up in the air:

In a call with reporters, Jackson skirted questions about whether she might leave the administration. Earlier in the day, she e-mailed EPA staff to congratulate them for the last four years of work and cited “historic and important steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.” …

Other sources close to Jackson say her decision to leave right now would make sense given that she would leave on a positive note completing the tougher soot standards, an accomplishment she wanted to complete as administrator.

From a White House strategic perspective, a departure by Jackson would spur worries about the prospect of a tough fight to confirm her replacement. EPA policies under Obama have spurred criticism among Republicans, and that could make for contentious hearings on a confirmation. A likely successor to Jackson is Bob Perciasepe, Jackson’s deputy. Both environmentalists and people in the energy industry have told National Journal that they would be comfortable with Perciasepe as the choice. He might be easier to confirm than some other candidates.

At the end of the day, of course, all of the administration’s major policy impetuses are a product of President Obama’s delegation — and man, does he ever know how to pick ’em.

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