Chu has already had a significant impact. From his position near the top of President Barack Obama's administration, he has helped make the case that the United States must commit to reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions, not only to save the planet but also to ensure that the country will be able to compete with China, India and Europe in the emerging green economy.
And he has started to commit the energy department to doing more high-risk research on clean energy. This is the proper role of governmental research programmes: to develop promising technologies that are too far from the market to draw the support of industry, which has to focus on near-term profits. Nations cannot simply regulate themselves out of the global-warming problem; pledges to cut greenhouse emissions have to be made real by the scientists and engineers who develop cheaper, cleaner and more efficient ways to produce and distribute energy.
He still has quite a huge task in front of him. But for once, there is quite an optimism that science policy and science decision for this Administration will be heavily-based on the advice of knowledge scientists rather than politicians and based on politics.