And Obama gives the best clean energy and global warming solutions job to … Zoi, CEO of Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, has been nominated by President Obama to serve as Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) under Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Zoi has a unique combination of expertise in clean energy and high level federal government experience — she was Chief of Staff in the Clinton White House Office on Environmental Policy, managing the staff working on environmental and energy issues (full bio here, recent writing below). Since I have known Zoi for nearly 2 decades and since in 1997 I held the job she is now nominated for, I can personally attest she will be able to hit the ground running in the crucial job of overseeing the vast majority of the development and deployment of plausible climate solutions technology.

What does EERE do? You could spend hours on their website, here, exploring everything they are into. Of the 12 to 14 most plausible wedges the world needs to stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm — the full global warming solution — EERE is the principal federal agency for working with businesses to develop and deploy the technology for 11 of them!

The stimulus and the 2009 budget dramatically increases — more than doubles — EERE funding for technology development and deployment. Zoi’s most important job is deployment, deployment, deployment. And again she is a uniquely qualified to get clean energy into the marketplace. Zoi was a manager at the US Environmental Protection Agency where “she pioneered the Energy Star Program,” which was the pioneering energy efficiency deployment program launched in the early 1990s.

So we know Zoi gets energy efficiency. Here’s what she wrote last year about “Embracing the Challenge to Repower America“:

Many Americans have a hard time thinking about our energy future, largely because their energy present is so challenging. With gasoline prices hovering near $4 per gallon and rising energy bills at home and at work, our economy is struggling with the burden of imported oil and reliance on fossil fuels. The need to satisfy the nation’s oil appetite has shaped our foreign and defense postures, and is a primary reason for our current entanglements overseas. Extreme weather here in the U.S. has us feeling uneasy. And the scientists remind us more urgently every week about the mounting manifestations of the climate crisis.

To solve these problems, we must repower our economy. Fast.

Vice President Gore has issued a challenge for us to do just that: Generate 100 percent of America’s electricity from truly clean sources that do not contribute to global warming — and do so within 10 years. It is an ambitious but attainable goal. American workers, businesses and families are up to it.

Meeting the challenge to repower America will deliver the affordability, stability and confidence our economy needs, as well as a healthy environment. And it will generate millions of good American jobs that can’t be outsourced.

It will involve simultaneous work on three fronts. First, get the most out of the energy we currently produce. Second, quickly deploy the clean energy technologies that we already know can work. Third, create a new integrated electricity grid to deliver power from where it is generated to where people live.

The first front involves energy efficiency. The potential here is vast and largely untapped. Now is the time to begin a comprehensive national energy upgrade that will reduce the energy bills of homeowners and businesses — even as costs of energy supplies may be on the rise.

The second front requires expanding the use of existing generation technologies. This will include accelerated growth in our wind energy industry. We have a strong running start — the U.S. was the leading installer of wind technology last year. Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens says we can get at least 20 percent of America’s electricity from wind power. We think he’s right.

Solar thermal power is also booming and poised for rapid acceleration. The resource potential is so vast that a series of collectors in the American southwest totaling just 92 miles on a side could power our entire electricity system. Utilities in Arizona, Nevada, and California have already begun to tap this potential, with plans for powering nearly one million homes underway.

Advances in thermal storage technologies, along with investments in our grid, mean that solar thermal power will be able to provide electricity at night, like coal power does today.

Nuclear and hydroelectric power facilities currently combine to contribute roughly 25% of America’s electricity. That will continue. Coal and natural gas can also play a significant role by capturing and storing their carbon emissions safely. Our hope is that this CCS emissions technology can be developed and commercialized quickly. Without it, coal isn’t “clean.” There are reportedly a few CCS plants now proposed in the U.S., although another roughly 70 proposed coal plants have no such plans to capture their carbon pollution.

The third front is the creation of a unified national electricity grid. A “super smart grid” will form the backbone and the entire skeleton of our modern power system. Efficient high voltage lines will move power from remote, resource-rich areas to places where power is consumed.

It will also allow households to make money by automatically using energy at the cheapest times and selling electricity back to the grid when a surplus is available can. A smart meter spins both ways.

Meeting this 100 percent clean power challenge will require a one-time capital investment in new infrastructure, with the bulk of funding coming from private finance. If policies reward reducing global warming pollution, private capital will flow towards clean energy solutions.

But the most important cost figures to consider may be the ones we’ll avoid. American utilities will spend roughly $100 billion this year on coal and natural gas to fuel power plants. And more next year and the year after that — until we make the switch to renewable fuels that are free and limitless.

The 10-year time frame is key.

The science, the economic pressures and our national security concerns demand swift, concerted action. The best climate scientists tell us we must make rapid progress to turn the corner on global carbon emissions or the ecological consequences will be irreversible.

The solutions are available now — there are no technology or material impediments. Failing to move swiftly will deprive the U.S. economy of earnings from one of the fastest growing technology sectors in the world.

We’ve done this before. We mobilized the auto industry in 12 months to service the hardware needs of WWII. The Marshall Plan to reconstruct Europe was executed in four years. And as Vice President Gore pointed out, we reached the moon in eight years, not ten.

We can do this. With support from the American people and leadership from elected officials, America can accept the challenge of building a safe, secure and sustainable energy future.

In short, she gets both energy efficiency and Concentrated solar thermal power Solar Baseload.

Kudos to Obama for this terrific pick!

21 Responses to And Obama gives the best clean energy and global warming solutions job to …

  1. ZS says:

    Obama’s energy/climate picks have been stellar. They also have the effect of making careers in the EPA/DoE much more enticing than they were during the Bush years. I’ll be getting my grad degree in May, and as recently as last fall (before the election) I wasn’t thinking too seriously about the federal path. Having Jackson and Chu at the helm of EPA and DoE has changed my perspective, and surely has changed that of others in my position as well.

  2. Rick C says:

    Pinc me! I must be dreaming! Obama has setup the A team on renewable energy, eifficiency and they are just the team that will provide the solutions to global warming and the transition to a clean green economy.

  3. amazingdrx says:

    Great news!! go kathy!!!

  4. Mark Shapiro says:

    To promote the all-important efficiency wedges, Zoi (and Obama) should preface every discussion of energy (especially taxes or caps) with the question:

    “Do you like paying taxes?”

    “If not, get efficient (and conserve) now. It saves money now, and more money later if energy prices rise for whatever reason.”

    In econ-speak, energy efficiency has option value in addition to its current value. (The option value is real, but unknown to most folks).

    In other words, we want everyone who is concerned about energy tax increases tomorrow to do the money-smart thing today.

    Sheesh. Coming up with pithy phrases to disarm the opposition is harder than I thought. But we have to counter the meme that environmentalists want to destroy the economy and control everyone.

  5. Jim Bullis says:

    Here is an example of how government can get things to come out wrong.

    Let’s say that there is a huge push to promote entirely “clean” sources for electricity in 10 years as Al Gore proposed. This goal would tend to exclude systems that made a huge difference, were affordable, used very little energy, shifted much of the dependence on coal to dependence on natural gas, and required no direct tax on coal and could get us where we need to be, maybe, without cap and trade.

    On the other hand, if the goal did not prejudge the solutions, we might see distributed cogeneration, where engines running on natural gas at our various houses would drive electric generators. These would run only if the house could fully use the heat discharged from the engines. The residential customer/operator would buy natural gas from the utility and electric energy would be sold to the utility at the same constant rate as now charged, just like the present California rule. This would very rapidly cut use of coal and even improve the natural gas productivity.

    The only development would be to convert small diesel engines to natural gas operation, just as Cummins did to convert truck diesel engines to LNG operation, as now are running in Peterbilt trucks.

    And of course, the small engines and generators could also be part of the equipment of high efficiency motor vehicles, so there would be only the cost of a few pipes and simple heat exchanging radiators.

    It seems that this could be wildly popular and get rapid acceptance; it could be politically desirable in contrast to political suicide. But the prejudged solutions would now on the table would block such progress.

  6. Jim Bullis says:

    Correction, please change in my last, “–solutions would now –” to “– solutions now–“.

  7. If Zoi wants to hit the ground running, she needs to root out the crackpot denialism in the Office of Industrial Technologies.

    [JR: The tiny petroleum industry of the future folks. We help everyone get more efficient.]

  8. danl says:

    ZS– I agree with you. Obama’s picks have made me take a second look at Energy Policy from the inside, not just as a consultant or academic.

  9. Cebes says:

    If she dosen’t include industrial hemp and hydro kinetics in the mix of energy technologies that can be made ready to go this year, then she dosen’t get it. We’ll be slaves to the fossil fuel fascist until Global Warming does us in.

    Industrial hemp can produce fuel for all of our transportation needs; heating oil, and 50,000 other products that petroleum may or may not be able to produce, Indusrial hemp is clean inexpensive and renewable compared to fossil fuels. If the Attorney General won’t give a difinitive answer on the legal use of medicinal cannabis, he should give one for industrial Cannabis Sativa L. which is not a narcotic.

    Maybe everyone in the Justice system should read jack Herer’s “The
    emperor Wears No Clothes.” doing so will add balance to their knowledge aout why the United States is the only “developed” country that arrests 872,000 plus Americans or more a year for the possession of industrial hemp and marijuana, when other developed countries are using them to cure their sick and provide jobs for their workers.

  10. David B. Benson says:

    Energy efficviency certainly has higher ROI than sequestering CO2 once it has been created.

  11. Roger says:

    Kudos to Obama, too, for finally mentioning the link between climate disruption and the Red River flooding! Yes, it’s only been 12 short years since the “500 year” flood of the Red that occurred in the spring of 1997.

    Obama’s brave comment is a giant first step towards getting the vast majority of Americans educated about the impacts of climate change.
    Next, he needs to go on prime-time TV to continue with this tough job.

    Until that happens, there’s a newly published “Connecting the Dots” section on GWEN’s (Global Warming Education Network) website at Check out the cool links, and events pages, too.

  12. davidgmills says:

    Does she have a PhD in solar physics? Probably not. Unfortunately.

  13. David B. Benson says:

    davidgmills — Here bio is linked in the main post, so you could have bothered to check it. Anyway, EERE doesn’t need a solar physicist, but rather an engineer, which she is.

  14. CTF says:

    A great choice!

  15. davidgmills says:

    David Benson.

    I must disagree. I am as progressive as they get, (actually off the charts and far left of Kucinich) but when someone is so involved in global warming issues (the post claims that 11 of 12 global warming issues are involved in this post) there really needs to be someone on Obama’s staff who knows something about what the sun is doing.

    Until recently Al Gore was my political hero. I voted for him in 2000 and wanted him to run again. I loved “An Inconvenient Truth.” But I am glad now Al Gore didn’t run. Not after I learned about the Maunder Minimum last year and the fact that we may be staring another in the face.

    I voted for Obama. I am a lawyer just like he is, but I had concerns that Obama really wasn’t going to represent the little guy like John Edwards would have done (but after what Edwards did, I’m glad he didn’t get the nomination). I am a personal injury lawyer like Edwards and we go to bat for the little guy every day. We also have to know a lot more about science than the average lawyer. Moreover, Obama appears to have the typical lawyer’s knowledge of science, piss poor.

    It seems like to me Obama’s picks on global warming issues are about as bad as Geitner and Summers have been on financial issues. Obama’s financial picks surely are not progressive and are only protecting Wall Street and the big banks, when the banks should be nationalized, and the criminals who ran them put in jail. Nobody on Obama’s financial team is close to progressive to put forth a different view.

    Likewise, there is nobody on Obama’s environmental team that has anything but the consensus view on global warming. Being progressive is not about taking the consensus view. It is about being right, which is also the scientific view. The great thinkers of science went against the prevailing scientific consensus. Obama really needs a good solar physicist on the team who thinks the sun might play a major part in the earth’s climate. At least to hear a different point of view, if nothing else. What happened to “team of rivals?”

    [JR: It was a “team of anti-scientists” — the solar forcing theory has been completely disproved in the literature by a dozen recent studies. It ain’t a “scientific consensus” — it is a “scientific understanding.”]

  16. davidgmills says:

    JR Sorry pal. It is not bogus. No matter how many times people on this board think it is. For every study you show one way, I am sure I can show you another study going the other way.

    I don’t think people on this board are keeping up because they don’t want to.

    I have been here viewing for months without posting. I read the comments. But I can tell people aren’t reading the studies I am reading.

    But time will tell. We are now in a deep solar minimum. Lawrence and Penn in 2005 predicted the sun would be spotless by 2014. So far they have been on the mark. 266 spotless days last year and only ten days with sunspots this year. Last year we had the most spotless sun since 1913. Solar cycle 24 was due to take off a year and a half ago and so far — nothing.

    Solar wind is at it’s lowest since the space age. The atmosphere has shrunk. Solar flux is way down at 69. Cosmic radiation is substantially increased. Be10 and C14 are up. I read somewhere recently (and I am trying to confirm because I thought it had to be a misprint) that albido is up 1%. If you don’t think that will cool the earth, I don’t know what would convince you.

    We just got through having the most magnetic sun we have had in at least the last 1,000 years and probably the last 8,000 years. Do you think that could have at least had something to do with the warming of the last 50 years? Do you think?

    I believed the AGW hypothesis for a long time based on the solar constant. Well the sun is a very constant thermonuclear furnace but not at all constant magnetically. And all of the AGW models assume that the sun’s magneticism has no effect on climate. What if the assumption is dead wrong?

    I just read a study that looked at cosmic radiation and cloud cover in the UK for the last 50 years. Very clear correlation — the more cosmic radiation the more low clouds. So this science is not bunk. This study was not theory; it was just looking at cosmic radiation data and cloud intensity and duration data. How does one say a study like this is bunk?

    All progressives need is to hitch ourselves to the global climate wagon and have it go off the cliff. We will have no credibility on anything else.

  17. davidgmills says:

    If you still think there is no correlation between cosmic radiation and clouds, this is the study I was referring to:

    50 years of data show a 20% increase in the likelihood of a cloudy day when cosmic radiation is high.

  18. Robert says:

    Joe, Did you see that EnergyBulletin is having a pop at you?

    “But to even those who understand that we must get back under 350 ppm fast, the American lifestyle remains non-negotiable, and so the Obama Admin and the nations leading climate change activists and pundits have all been seduced by the dream of a technofix.”

    [JR: That isn’t my position, and since I have not been called out directly, it is hard to get worked up about this.]

    I sympathise with their point of view. I can’t get away from the notion that the only truly sustainable lifestyle is the one that nature developed. Our attempts to improve on it ultimately depend on drawing down non-renewable resources and are therefore inevitably unsustainable. Fine for now, but in the long term nature will demand that we return to a fully sustainable way of life. That really is non-negotiable.

    The problem with industrial-scale clean energy is that it is too similar to what we already have. It relies on massive amounts of mined materials, huge energy inputs, a complex industrial infrastructure, country-scale power distribution network, a global trade in components such as batteries and electronics, etc. I don’t believe all this compexity will survive fossil fuel depletion.

  19. Jerry Silberman says:

    This is a really bad joke. There is no technofix. Every fantasy of this sort, from Al Gore to the Apollo Alliance is of a piece with bank bailouts, it simply postpones the pain, guaranteeing that it will be more acute when it happens. Those who are developing low tech localized economics and mastering the skills of sustainable farming, wood working, and construction using hand tools will,when these absurd technological dinosaurs fail, emerge, I hope to build sustainable and rewarding human cultures, provided we haven’t burnt the biosphere beyond our ability to survive anywhere on it.

  20. Robert says:


    “[JR: That isn’t my position, and since I have not been called out directly, it is hard to get worked up about this.]”

    You have. The EnergyBulletin piece gives 5 examples, the second of which is yours. You either get their point or you don’t. And it is the debate as to whether the American Lifestyle can continue in anything like its current form in a zero-carbon, sustainable world. I am sure it can’t, however many windfarms and CSP plants you build.

    [JR: I have not. I emailed the author. He can’t or won’t site specific things I said or wrote that he disputes, nor does he offer an alternative. Like him, you have incorrectly stated my position on “the American lifestyle.” I thought you read this blog.]

  21. jbrosius says:

    “Cathy Zoi, CEO of Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, has been nominated by President Obama to serve as Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) under Energy Secretary Steven Chu”.

    Is there a place that shows numbers on how she implimented plans to reduce her employer Mr Al Gore’s energy consumption?

    “I can personally attest she will be able to hit the ground running in the crucial job of overseeing the vast majority of the development and deployment of plausible climate solutions technology.”

    Did she share her accomplishments in terms of new efficiencies and savings?

    [Well argued!]