Well according to sources that AP writer Dina Cappiello has spoken with, he's the frontrunner. And before you dismiss this as yet another error-ridden AP report, keep in mind that energy and environment is Dina's beat and she doesn't have a history of throwing out unsubstantiated claims:
But officials close to the transition team privately say that Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, appears to be increasingly on track to become energy secretary.
A Chinese-American, Chu is a professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California-Berkeley and has been the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004, where he has pushed aggressively for research into alternative energy as a way to combat global warming.
(video of Chu below the fold)
If you look at the history of the Department of Energy, you'll find that there's never been a Secretary who actually was an expert on energy. The closest we've ever gotten was Charles Duncan who had a chemical engineering degree and had a cup of coffee out of school at Humble (later Exxon). For some reason it just never occurred to the President to install a person who was qualified for the position.
Instead we've been subjected to a long line of career politicians, military men and folks that were as far away from energy as you could get (Reagan's first Secretary of Energy was an oral surgeon) . Is it any wonder that our energy policy is set by industry since the person who is supposed to do that doesn't have a clue?
Not only does Chu have a clue, he's a Nobel-prize winning scientist and is already working under the auspices of the Department of Energy at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. A scientist, ya'll. As the Secretary of Energy. Oh. My. Gawd.
Check out what Chu says about jobs being taken out of the hands of lobbyists and assigned to engineers in 3:48-4:23 timeframe. Classic.
Update 5:03 pm ET: MSNBC and CNN are both reporting that Chu is the pick and will be officially announced next week. Break out the champagne.