Obama taps Sandalow, BP official for high-level roles

President Obama plans to nominate David Sandalow, who held several environmental positions in the Clinton administration, to be the Energy Department's assistant secretary for Policy and International Affairs, the White House announced Friday.

Obama also plans to nominate BP chief scientist Steven Koonin to be undersecretary for Science. The pick reunites him with Energy Secretary Steven Chu after both helped form a major biosciences energy research partnership when Chu headed the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The choice of Sandalow, now an energy and climate expert at the Brookings Institution, brings years of Washington, D.C., experience to the upper reaches of DOE following some other choices -- including Chu -- from outside the familiar D.C. policymaking circles.

Sandalow served as assistant secretary of State for Oceans, Environment and Science under Clinton and was also senior director for Environmental Affairs on the National Security Council. He also served as an executive with the World Wildlife Fund and as chairman of the Energy and Climate Working Group of the Clinton Global Initiative after leaving government, among other roles.

If confirmed, Sandalow could play a key role in shaping U.S. cooperation with China on efforts by the two major greenhouse gas emitters to share technology and curb emissions. In a paper early this year, he suggested several steps to overcome barriers to high-level political support in China and the United States on joint efforts to fight climate change.


Beyond China, Chu has called for greater international cooperation overall in demonstrating carbon sequestration technologies. And more broadly, Sandalow would join an administration that will be trying to negotiate a post-Kyoto international climate accord.

He is also author of the 2007 book "Freedom from Oil: How the Next President Can End the United States' Oil Addiction." Sandalow is a backer of plug-in electric vehicles, among other steps to curb oil use.

Other policy goals include requiring oil companies to install ethanol pumps at gas stations, boosting support for cellulosic ethanol and phasing out the ethanol import tariff for producers that meet "social and environmental standards." Sandalow, who was among the Obama presidential campaigns advisers, discussed his plans for curbing oil use in an October 2007 appearance on E&ETV's OnPoint.

BP official slated for top science job at DOE

Obama plans to nominate BP's Steven Koonin to be undersecretary for science at DOE at a time when Chu -- a Nobel Prize-winning physicist -- has vowed to boost the office's role at the agency.

Koonin, also an award-winning physicist, is currently chief scientist for the oil major. Koonin's role at BP, which he joined in 2004, focused heavily on alternative and renewable energy, according to the White House.

Chu and Koonin worked together at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, part of the Energy Biosciences Institute, a 10-year, $500 million research partnership with BP, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois announced in 2007. Developing next-generation biofuels is key to the mission. Koonin is on the executive board and both he and Chu played roles in establishing the program.

Before joining BP, the Brooklyn-born Koonin spent almost three decades at the California Institute of Technology as a professor of theoretical physics, including nine years as provost. He got his undergraduate degree at Caltech and doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Chu has vowed to boost DOE's Office of Science in the service of developing low-carbon energy sources. Chu recently told a congressional panel that the upcoming fiscal 2010 budget will substantially increase support for the office, which also received $1.6 billion in the recently enacted economic stimulus bill.

The omnibus fiscal 2009 spending bill provided nearly $4.8 billion for the office, almost $755 million above current levels. Beyond money, Chu has said he wants to overhaul the way science is managed at the agency, such as increasing collaboration to bridge the gap between basic research and deployment of technologies.

In addition to the Sandalow and Koonin announcements, the White House said Steve Isakowitz will remain DOE's chief financial officer.

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