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[FTW's Science Editor briefs subscribers on new energy secretary.]

Who is Sam Bodman?
And why did Bush Nominate Him for Secretary of Energy

Dale Allen Pfeiffer

December 17, 2004 0800 PDT (FTW) - On December 10th, 2004, George Bush nominated Samuel W. Bodman to replace Spence Abraham as Secretary of Energy. The nomination surprised everyone involved in the energy sector. Sam Bodman has little direct energy experience. Considering the situation with regards to world oil production and North American natural gas production, you would think Bush would want an energy expert to take the reins at the department of energy. Who is Sam Bodman anyway?

In the late 1960's, Sam Bodman began his career by serving as an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. Concurrently, he was the Technical Director of the American Research & Development Corporation, a venture capital firm. Next, Bodman went to Fidelity Venture Associates, a division of Fidelity Investments. He was eventually named President and Chief Operating Officer of Fidelity Investments and director of the Fidelity Group of Mutual Funds. In 1987 he moved to Cabot Corporation, a specialty chemicals and materials business. There he served as Chairman, CEO and Director.

Sam Bodman first came to work for the federal government as a Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, where he oversaw efforts to reorganize the offices involved in stopping the flow of funds to terrorists, thwarting money launderers, and enforcing economic sanctions. Moving to the Commerce Department, Bodman shifted his focus to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Patent and Trademark Office, and the National Institute of Standards & Technology.

After his nomination by President Bush, Bodman commented on his past experience, "Each of these activities dealt with the financial markets and the impact of energy and technology on those markets."1 Yet Sam Bodman was virtually unknown to energy industry insiders and to Washington energy policy specialists prior to his nomination. So why did he get the nod?

Sam Bodman was recommended for the position by outgoing Commerce Secretary Donald Evans. Evans, of course, is a Texas oil man and one of George Bush's closest friends. Sen. Pete Domenici, a Republican from New Mexico and chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee that will consider Bodman's nomination, has predicted an easy confirmation.

James Lucier, a Washington analyst with the Prudential Equity Group, has said, "The choice of Bodman is a signal that they want to continue using the Energy Department as more of a long-term transformation change agent than a high-profile position."2 If confirmed, Bodman has said that he will carry out… "sound energy policy to ensure a steady supply of affordable energy for America's homes and businesses, and to work toward the day when America achieves energy independence."3

It is expected that Bodman will promote Vice-President Dick Cheney's energy initiative. He is expected to deregulate the energy industry and promote new nuclear power plant construction, clean coal-burning plants, and to press for drilling in ANWR and elsewhere within the US. Given his educational background in chemical engineering, his appointment will likely boost confidence in the Energy Department's proposed transition to a hydrogen economy.

Cheney Still in Control of Energy Policy

The Bodman nomination signals that the Bush administration wants an experienced administrator to run the department, leaving energy policymaking to the White House. Although the White House has long denied it, industry insiders and energy experts long ago concluded that Dick Cheney is in direct control of energy policy. "There is no doubt whatsoever that (Cheney) sets the broad direction and is keeping an eye on these agencies to make sure they follow their checklists," James Lucier has said.4

Environmental groups agree that Bodman will have little effect upon energy policy. "This nomination is indicative of a continuation of Cheney wanting to keep the lead," said Karen Wayland, legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "I think it's been pretty clear over the last four years that the energy plan the administration is pushing is taking its direction from the vice president's office."5

Bodman's nomination was awash in rhetoric about how he will help guide the US to energy independence. However, it is unlikely given his background, that Sam Bodman really believes the US can achieve this impossible goal. His appointment is intended merely to reassure the market. Sam Bodman will likely remain a low profile figure, proclaiming the glories of a hydrogen economy while secretly pushing nuclear, coal, and drilling of protected areas within the US. And, meanwhile, Dick Cheney will remain firmly in control of energy policy.

1 Remarks by President Bush and Secretary of Energy Nominee Sam Bodman. White House Press Office, Dec. 10th, 2004.

2 New US energy chief likely to keep low profile, Baltimore, Chris. Reuters, Dec. 10th, 2004.

3 Op. Cit. See note 1.

4 Ibid.

5 'Sam Who?' Bush's Energy Nominee Surprises Industry, Doggett, Tom & Baltimore, Chris. Reuters, Dec. 10th, 2004.


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