Obama the Super-Environmentalist

You wouldnâ''t have thought, to have judged from his campaign rhetoric, that energy and climate were going to be high priorities in Barackâ''s administration. You might have thoughtâ''and McCain said as muchâ''that Obama might turn out to be a social-economic radical, even, perish the thought, a socialist. But not an environmental activist.

Now look at the record: the presidentâ''s appointments to all major economics & finance positions have been entirely middle-of-the road, essentially uncontroversial, rock-no-boats players; his appointments to positions related to energy and the environment, in contrast, say loud and clear that a radical change of course is in the offing. The latest confirmation of that message comes today, with the news that Harvardâ''s John Holdren will be next science advisor and Jane Lubchenko the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Holdren, certainly one of the five or ten most influential energy experts in the country, chaired the last major blue-ribbon energy policy study, during the Clinton years. He is well known as a knowledgeable advocate for alternative, innovative, green, and carbon-free energy technologies. Lubchenko, an eminent marine biologist, is closely associated with the idea of creating oceanic wildlife preservesâ''making stretches of open ocean, in effect, international parks.

As with the appointment of Stephen Chu to Energy, the nomination of top experts to the science advisory and NOAA positions sends a message in itself; instead of our saying, â''Whoâ''s that again?,â'' we say, â''Wow! You canâ''t go much higher than that!â'' But in both cases thereâ''s a second, equally important message: for science advisor, Obama could have picked a space policy expert or a bioengineer or a pharmaceutics specialist, but he didnâ''t. He picked an energy expert, and one very closely associated with green energy. For NOAA, he could have picked some other leading marine or atmospheric scientist, but he didnâ''t. He picked the scientist most closely associated with marine conservation.

The message is clear: energy, climate, and conservation will be front and center in the Obama administration, and it will be a change.


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