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That Nobel prize, PhD, and ten patents to his name are hints that Secretary of Energy Steven Chu is beyond simply a bright man.  Secretary Chu is also a dedicated public servant. He is also a thoughtful, self-effacing, and, well, simply entertaining speaker. A chance to be in the room, to seem him speak, is one  of those things not to pass up.

Last evening Secretary Chu spoke at an evening reception leading into today's Center for American Progress Doing What Works that examined paths for improving government performance and foster increased (reasons for) public confidence in government.  He spoke to perspectives on the role of government and provided some thoughts from the Department of Energy.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu took on conservative economists in comments last evening, where he spoke with strong praise for regulation and standards for driving energy efficiency in appliances and other energy-related systems.

Chu explained that writing regulation and setting standards are -- without exception -- the lowest cost move with the highest payoff to the economy that the Department of Energy can pursue.  The DOE has already doubled the rate of writing standards -- while making them more aggressive.  He commented that, at a budget meeting meeting earlier today, he instructed the plan to have resources to again double standard writing.

Secretary Chu commented that there was a major gap in the DOE appliance standards program: essentially no enforcement.  On this, Chu stands with President Reagan: Trust, but verify. And, Chu added: go hard on verification. When the DOE General Counsel hired a litigator to enforce standards and began moving forward with enforcement cases, some 40 of DOE's existing lawyers volunteered to work on enforcement cases ... on top of their existing duties.

Chu commented that there are economists that will account, as a value, the reduced freedom of choice due to tightening standards.  To this, Secretary Chu noted that

Forcing people to save is a cost that I am willing to bear.

We're going to enforce standards.

Here were some of his other comments that seemed 'quote / note worthy' ...

  • "Many people think that the best thing that government can do is get out of the way and let business do their thing.  I disagree with that ... there are market failures.  International fishing is a market failure. 97% of the fish that we like to eat, like tuna, are gone. That is a market failure. Energy and climate are a market failure ..."

  • "Demand for a certain commodity, oil, drives oil companies to go into more risky environments in a way that I didn't understand just a little while ago.  As our demand for oil drives them into these areas, the margin for error decreases for a number of reasons. Why? Well, for example, these are ever more remote and difficult areas, you can't go out and touch the hole you're drilling. The ability to control and monitor fracturing decreases ... We've been doing this without thinking.  If we don't stop and think aboutg what we're doing, we could end up in deep water ... literally."


Secretary Chu made a recruiting appeal.

I can offer you a much lower salary, much more hassle, much less control over your life ... but this is important ... We need the very best of society to join the government.  If the very best aren't willing to join, we'll do the the best with what we have.

Well, with Steve Chu and many others that he (and Barack Obama) has brought into DOE (and, well, honestly -- a good number of those who were there), we have "the very best" ... I feel privileged to have Steve Chu as a public servant.

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Originally posted to A Siegel on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 03:26 PM PDT.

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