Published online 14 January 2009 | Nature 457, 242-243 (2009) | doi:10.1038/457242a


On the record

Barack Obama's nominees for top federal positions are not speaking to the press until their appointments are confirmed, but they have spoken out before.

Click here for a description of who's who.

On the role of science:

John Holdren: nominated for assistant to the president for science and technology.T. FITZSIMMONS

John Holdren: "The toughest questions cannot be resolved by technical expertise, but the experts should clarify the options and the range of technical uncertainty as best they can."</br> Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1976

Steven Chu: "We seek solutions. We don't seek — dare I say this — just scientific papers any more."</br> In the San Francisco Chronicle, 2007 (22 March, page B1)

Jane Lubchenco: "Science alone does not hold the power to achieve the goal of greater sustainability, but scientific knowledge and wisdom are needed to help inform decisions that will enable society to move toward that end. A sustainable biosphere is one that is ecologically sound, economically feasible, and socially just."</br> In Science, 1998

Tom Daschle: "If history shows anything, it's that a bet against science is a bet you cannot win."</br> Lecture, 2004

On climate change:

Holdren: "The most dangerous and difficult of all environmental problems that have ever been created by human beings and probably ever will be created — full stop."</br> Lecture, 2007

Lawrence Summers: nominated for head of the National Economic Council.M. B. CENETA/AP

Lawrence Summers: "My children are very alarmed about what's going to happen to Florida 60 years from now and they have great moral energy invested in 'the oceans are going to rise' and so forth. They are, except from what they hear from me, without concern and have not been led to be concerned about the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of girls like them who are becoming child prostitutes in the world every year, because of their poverty. This tremendous moral energy that is being inculcated in our youth is being channelled, almost exclusively in the United States to environmental questions. And I don't deny the force of environmental questions, but I think there are equally compelling and in some ways more immediate moral concerns that somehow don't get put on the same moral plane."</br> isSustainable_Development">Panel debate, 2006

Lisa Jackson: nominated for head of the Environmental Protection Agency.H. A. LINDQUIST/SIPA PRESS/NEWSCOM

Lisa Jackson: "Perhaps the most crippling barrier we face is the false idea that we cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions without hurting the economy. This has been a constant mantra of the current administration in Washington, but this is patently false."</br> Congressional testimony, 2007

Cass Sunstein: "The best way for the current generation to help posterity might be through reducing [carbon] emissions; but it might be through other methods, including approaches that make posterity richer and better able to adapt."</br> Working paper, 2008 (with David Weisbach)

Chu: "500 parts per million [atmospheric carbon dioxide] is very optimistic, and most of us don't think we will achieve this goal."</br> Lecture, 2008

On the environment and population:

Jane Lubchenco: nominated for administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.J. LUBCHENCO

Lubchenco: "We can no longer afford to have the environment be accorded marginal status on our agendas. The environment is not a marginal issue, it is the issue of the future, and the future is here now."</br> In Science, 1998

Holdren: "To ignore population today because the problem is a tough one is to commit ourselves to even gloomier prospects 20 years hence, when most of the 'easy' means to reduce per capita impact on the environment will have been exhausted."</br> In Science, 1971 (with Paul Ehrlich)

Chu: "The best birth control is economic prosperity … rich people have fewer babies. We don't know why, but it cuts across every culture … I personally think it has something to do with late-night TV."</br> Lecture, 2008

On investment:

Holdren: "We should be quadrupling to ten-tupling the amount of money we are putting in energy research and development on alternatives to provide the energy that people need to be prosperous without wrecking the climate."</br> The Late Show with David Letterman, 2008

Summers: "We need to identify those investments that stimulate demand in the short run and have a positive impact on productivity. These include renewable energy technologies and the infrastructure to support them, the broader application of biotechnologies and expanding broadband connectivity."</br> In his Financial Times column, 2008

On energy security:

Tom Vilsack: nominated for secretary of agriculture.2008 OWEN SL/BLACK STAR/NEWSCOM

Tom Vilsack: "Iowa is one of the nation's leading producers of corn-based ethanol, and many people in my state have an economic stake in the expanded use of corn-based ethanol. But the reality is that corn-based ethanol will never be enough to reach our goals. Some have suggested that we import more sugar-based ethanol from Brazil and we should indeed consider all sources of available ethanol … but if we are going to create energy security we can't simply replace one imported source of energy with another. That alone is not security … the only way we can produce enough domestically is if we greatly improve the technology used to produce cellulosic ethanol."</br> Lecture, 2007

James Jones: "Expanding domestic [oil] production will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and natural gas and significantly reduce the billions of dollars we send abroad each year."</br> Institute for 21st-Century Energy report, 2008

Chu: "We want to raise grasses; we do not want to use soybeans for diesel oil or corn for ethanol. That is not a good use of land."</br> Lecture, 2008

On regulation and markets:

Summers: "I tend to support a cap-and-trade system, and I think if we ever make progress against global warming — as I hope we will, as we need to — it will come through some kind of cap-and-trade system … when I went to college or graduate school … the assumption was, to address a problem like that you would use command and control regulation."</br> In Portfolio magazine, 2008

Carol Browner: nominated for assistant to the president for energy and climate change.AP

Carol Browner: "When the government steps up and it says that there is a requirement that you are going to have to take sulphur out of diesel fuel, you are going to have to get rid of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) by a certain date, what the government is doing is creating a market opportunity. And American innovation and American ingenuity have risen to that challenge inevitably more quickly and at less cost than was anticipated."</br> Lecture, 2008

Chu: "[To reduce climate change] we really do need a combination of incentives to drive correct behaviour, but also fiscal policies and regulations and the most important is, of course, a price on carbon. Whether it is a tax or a cap and trade there has to be a price and … there can't be any loopholes. And right now the industries who feel that their existence is threatened are working very hard to make sure there are safety valves and loopholes."</br> Lecture, 2008

Lubchenco: "I do believe that we can do a much better job of managing fisheries, and that in doing so, we can recover much of the bounty that has been lost."</br> In The Oregonian, 2003 (26 October, page A01)

James Jones: nominated for National Security Advisor.S. OLSON/GETTY IMAGES

Jones: "Our nation's demand for more and more energy compels us to move forward immediately on projects that will take years to finance and complete. Lengthy, excessive, and unnecessary regulatory delays and roadblocks during a project will only increase costs, which are ultimately passed on to consumers, and prolong the current imbalance of supply and demand, and imperil our economic progress."</br> ReduceOverlyBurdensomeRegulationsandOpportunitiesforFrivolous_Litigation.aspx">Institute for 21st-Century Energy website

On hope:

Browner: "I am a very optimistic person … I think we'll ultimately get this right. I don't think we will be the first generation to lead to a world they cannot fix. But time is so of the essence. Scientists are telling us we do not have the luxury of time. We've wasted at least eight years. We've got to get going quickly."</br> Lecture, 2008

Holdren: "If I weren't optimistic, I would be out fishing today, Dave, and not talking to you."</br> The Late Show with David Letterman, 2008 

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