Energy Nominee Shifts His Stance

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WASHINGTON — Physics met politics at the confirmation hearing Tuesday for Steven Chu, the Nobel laureate scientist chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to head the Department of Energy, and the physics bent a bit, as Dr. Chu backed away slightly from earlier statements he has made — that gasoline prices should be higher, and that coal was his “nightmare.”

Dr. Chu, whose last job was director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, answered an array of questions from the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources — about his position on new nuclear reactors (yes, at least for a few plants), offshore drilling (only as part of an energy package) and new coal-burning power plants (a few, until we figure out a better way). He told the lawmakers that “last year’s rapid spike in oil and gasoline prices not only contributed to the recession we are now experiencing, it also put a huge strain on the budgets of families all across America.”

Last September, though, he told The Wall Street Journal, “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” At the hearing, responding to a question about that statement, he said, “What the American family does not want is to pay an increasing fraction of their budget, their precious dollars, for energy costs, both in transportation and keeping their homes warm and lit.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/13/us/politics/13web-chu.html?_r=1&hp

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