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Energy Secretary Looks to Labs for the Future

The Department of Energy's new leader, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, quite literally wants the organization to help save the world.

"The DOE will have to be the go-to organization for what we face in this country," Chu said in a satellite broadcast Thursday. "This agency, in my mind, is the key agency for the future of the U.S."

Chu's address to the national laboratories came a day after he was confirmed as the new administration's energy secretary. In his remarks, Chu focused on the need for new solutions to the problems facing the U.S. and the world, namely the economic crisis, combating climate change and finding alternative energy sources. To do this, he said, the country will need to rely on the national laboratories to develop a sound energy policy and to invent and transform new science and technologies that can be brought to the marketplace.

Chu called the science and work of the national laboratories critical and identified them as the "crown jewels the U.S. does not want to lose." He also commended the national laboratories for the quality of scientists they produced.

"We have a core of truly outstanding scientists," Chu said, pointing out the numerous Nobel Prize winners associated with national laboratories. "These national labs trained some of the outstanding scientists the country has today."

Chu, who served for four years as the director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory prior to his current appointment, said he believes in what the DOE has been doing for many years and asked for help in making the DOE the supreme agency in the country.

"DOE is the principal support of physical sciences in the U.S," Chu said. "Science in the U.S. is going to have to be the cornerstone of our country in this century."

Read a Discover magazine blog about Chu's remarks.

—Rhianna Wisniewski, Fermilab Today
SLAC Today, January 23, 2009