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Energy, Education Nominees Begin Confirmation Hearings

Along with Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton, the nominees for Secretary of Education and Secretary of Energy began their Senate confirmation hearings Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Ray Suarez reports on the process.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Of all the confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill on the president-elect's domestic agenda, only one involved testimony from a Nobel Prize winner. Energy secretary-designate Steven Chu appeared before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

    In 1997, Chu shared the Nobel Prize for physics. He's served as director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004. The scientist said he would bring the lab's focus on renewable energy with him to Washington, with the goal of cutting greenhouse gases.

    STEVEN CHU, Energy secretary nominee: Climate change is a growing and pressing problem. It's now clear that, if we continue on our current path, we run the risk of dramatic disruptive changes to our climate in the lifetimes of our children and our grandchildren.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    When the time came for committee questions, the hottest topic was nuclear power.

  • Tennessee Republican Bob Corker:

  • SEN. BOB CORKER, R-Tenn.:

    It's my understanding based on what I have heard hear today, you mean pursue nuclear now, in spite of the — some of the issues we have regarding waste; is that correct?

  • STEVEN CHU:

    Yes, because I'm pretty confident — I'm confident that the Department of Energy, perhaps in collaboration with other countries, can get a — a solution to the nuclear waste problem.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Committee Democrat Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, a coal-producing state, pressed Chu to clarify past remarks he had made about coal and the carbon emissions it generates.

  • SEN. BYRON DORGAN, D-N.D.:

    The statements you made about, coal is your worst nightmare, I understand the context in which you made it. So, you said what you said. And that's been ricocheting around the Internet. Address that for the committee as well.

  • STEVEN CHU:

    I said that in the con — the following context. If the world continues to use coal the way we're using it today — and the world I mean in particular, not only the United States, but China, India and Russia — then, it is a pretty bad dream.

    But I also stay say many times in my talks that coal is an abundant resource in the world. Two-thirds of the known coal reserves in the world lie in only four countries, the United States first and foremost, followed by India, China, and Russia.

    India and China, Russia, and the United States, I believe, will not turn their back on coal. So, it is imperative that we figure out a way to use coal as cleanly as possible.

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