The exodus of Obama’s cabinet continued this afternoon with the resignation of Energy Secretary, Steven Chu. The Nobel laureate physicist announced his departure this afternoon in a letter to President Obama. He plans to step down at the end of the month, but raised the possibility of staying until a successor is confirmed.
Chu’s tenure at Energy was controversial. He was the point-person on the Obama Administration’s efforts to promote renewable energy. The Stimulus program passed in 2009 provided billions of dollars in federal grants and loans to promote “clean energy.” One of the first recipients of federal support was solar panel maker Solyndra. The company went bust last year. Republicans on the Hill had criticized Chu for overlooking clear financial troubles at the company. Several other recipients of federal aid also went bust.
Chu was also forced to walk back comments he made several years ago, when he noted that “we have to figure out a way to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” With the average price of gas doubling over Obama’s first term, Chu’s remarks were seized on by Republicans.
Obama has not yet named a successor for Chu. The confirmation process, however, should provide Senators with a vehicle to examine the Department’s loan and grant programs for renewable energy. It is an opportunity to ensure that better safeguards are in place to protect taxpayer money.
It is normal for Cabinet members to leave after one term in office. That almost the entire cabinet is leaving simultaneously, however, is unusual. The Senate confirmation calendar is getting very crowded.