Obama’s Appointments: A return to science?


Carol Singer Nuevelt

With President-Elect Barack Obama’s move to Washington, DC this week (in fact, his hotel is just around the corner from the NAEM office) and his top Environment, Energy & Sustainability appointments made, I’d like to get your feedback about his designated Advisors and hear your predictions for the coming year.

I’m curious to hear what the EHS community thinks of President-Elect Obama’s picks, summarized here in this December 11th article in the Washington Post. While I’ve seen a range of comments in the media and blogosphere on his choices, for the most part there has not been much in the way of criticism.

The Green Business Blog, on the All Business website, says that the Sierra Club is “is pleased with President-elect Obama’s choices for his administration’s energy and environmental positions.” And in a pre-holiday post on the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) blog – The Switchboard – NRDC President, Frances Beinecke commends President-Elect Obama’s choices and asserts that he means business when it comes to climate change legislation and renewable energy. According to Ms. Beinecke, “Obama is launching us in a bold new direction. His team is the proof.”

Meanwhile, some are hoping the choices will mean a return to science and a move away from politics. The Huffington Post on-line commends the selection of Harvard’s John Holdren as the Chief Science Advisor to bolster the administration’s science-based approach on policy. Holdren is considered a leading expert on global climate science and is well versed in clean technologies.

Yet, Obama is going “back to the future” with many of his appointments including tapping the former EPA Administrator Carol Browner to be the newly created Energy and Climate Czar. So, this “bold new direction” doesn’t necessarily require that new people with new ideas will be responsible for getting us there.

And as with any new Administration, we wonder (and hope): Will this team have the knowledge & understanding and desire to work successfully in partnership with the private sector?

I am optimistic but am also hungry to hear some dissent!

On a related matter, I’ve got to give credit to the communications team of the incoming Administration.  The President-Elect is “hitting the air-waves” to get his new agenda circulating. Check out this Obama YouTube video on Climate Change!

About Carol Singer Neuvelt

Carol Singer Neuvelt is Executive Director of NAEM. Her long-term perspective and insights into corporate EHS and sustainability best practices also have been featured in a variety of publications, including The Chicago Tribune, the Bureau of National Affairs, Environmental Leader, the National Safety Council’s Safety+Health magazine and Sustainable Life Media. She is the former Deputy Director for the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Public Liaison, where she managed the agency’s interaction with external stakeholders. Follow her on Twitter at @carol_neuvelt.

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  1. rambleandblather

    January 8, 2009

    While I can see the merit of many of his selections for the cabinet and many of the new “Czar” postings I to am concerned about the long term ramifications associated with the heavy inclusion of the original Clinton team players. It brings many questions to me about how much change can be brought forward with so many of the same old players on the “new” team of change. This is a question I have asked on my blog designed to follow Obama through his full term of days in office. Perhaps I can get some of your thoughts there as well as the thoughts of some of your readers as well as here.

  2. Bruce Klafter

    January 8, 2009

    Those of us in California are encouraged and optimistic about Obama’s nomination of Stephen Chu and his other energy/environment picks. Dr. Chu brings an insider’s knowledge of energy and environment and we fully expect science and technology will be carefully considered during the development of national policy. Only time will tellm however, how EPA, DOE and other agencies actually perform. Most of us were very surprised that Administrator Johnson turned into such a political animal after an otherwise distinguished career.

  3. Christina Miller

    January 26, 2009

    The dissent is found in indifference. Every interview from every walk of expertise, whether environment, education, or economy has the same answer to, “Will it work?”. A shrug! “We’ll see, it is different. I don’t know.”
    The Obama strategy is so broad and encompassing that it has overlapping rippling impact. How would his strategy work in a single organization? Will it work? Only if he gets everybody on board the same train – and his train is global. Some international businesses have succeeded in mass changes. My recent studies indicate 10 years or more to realize them.
    I am excited about the changes proposed but aren’t we still waiting for details? Any positive change that results is better than no change.

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