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Bingaman Not Interested in Becoming DOE Secretary

December 1, 2008
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Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) "has respectfully indicated" that he is not interested in the job of energy secretary in the Obama administration, a spokesman for the senator said. He believes he can do more to effect energy policy as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Although "flattered" by being mentioned, "Sen. Bingaman is not going to be energy secretary. He loves the job he has," Bingaman spokesman Bill Wicker told NGI. The election of President-elect Obama was all about change, he said, "but Jeff Bingaman is not going to be changing jobs."

Instead, "he's going to be the go-to person up here" on Capitol Hill for the Obama administration on energy policy and legislation, Wicker noted.

Bingaman is at the top of a long list of names that are being mentioned for energy secretary, including governors and existing and former congressmen.

The Obama team is considering establishing an energy czar to oversee a council on energy and environment in the White House, Wicker said. If that turns out to be the case, he noted that energy policy would be set in the White House and not the Department of Energy (DOE). Carol Browner, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clinton administration, who was involved in the Obama campaign, and Jason Grumet, a member of the Obama team advising on energy issues, are being mentioned to head the council.

The Energy Department's function in nuclear defense development and oversight dwarfs its role in conventional energy policy and development. The nuclear role was assigned to the Energy Department because it is a civilian agency rather than putting it under the military in the Defense Department. The energy secretary typically meets with foreign representatives and travels internationally much of the time. The department does fund energy research and development.

The list of possible candidates for energy secretary is "as long as my arm," Wicker said. He believes any governors or congressmen are "serious contenders" for the post, while "other folks would be second tier."

The names being tossed around are Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius; California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell; former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles; Sen. John Kerry (D-MA); Elizabeth Moler, former chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and former DOE deputy secretary; Phil Sharp, a former Indiana congressman and currently president of nonpartisan think tank Resources for the Future in Washington, DC; Wesley Clark, retired general of the U.S. Army; and John Dyson, former chairman of the New York Power Authority, to name a few.

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