WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2013 - After weeks of speculation, Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced he would be stepping down from his position in the Obama Cabinet. Chu has served as secretary since January 2009.
“Serving the country as Secretary of Energy, and working alongside such an extraordinary team of people at the Department, has been the greatest privilege of my life,” Chu said in a letter to Department of Energy employees. “While the job has had many challenges, it has been an exciting time for the Department, the country, and for me personally.”
In his farewell letter, Chu paid special note to the country's progress in the renewable energy sector. “In the last four years, the production of clean, renewable energy from wind and solar has doubled – driven in part by our Administration investments in the development and deployment of the latest technologies,” he wrote. The explosion of that industry was due in no small part to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which created a portfolio of loan and loan guarantees for over thirty projects. Chu estimates that these projects, which he has overseen, will create 60,000 jobs and generate $55 billion in economic investment.
But Chu's tenure was also marked by controversy. In 2011, the solar energy company Solyndra filed for bankruptcy after accepting $535 million in DOE loans. The incident led to investigations by the Department of Justice and the FBI.
“As a Nobel Prize winning scientist, Steve brought to the Energy Department a unique understanding of both the urgent challenge presented by climate change and the tremendous opportunity that clean energy represents for our economy,” President Obama said in a statement.
Chu says he will stay on at the Department until early February, or until a new Secretary of Energy can be found.
Chu is the co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics on 1997 and previously held a position as the Director of the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. He also taught at the University of California as a Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology. Previously, he held positions at Stanford University and AT&T Bell Laboratories.
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