Jack Lew, picked for Treasury post, has ties to energy

Jack Lew may be best known for budgetary finesse, but President Obama's pick for the next Treasury secretary has experience in the energy world. Would the energy industry have an ally in Jack Lew?

Charles Dharapak/AP
White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew is seated in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday. President Obama has tapped Mr. Lew, who has a latent background in energy, to serve as the next Treasury secretary.

Jack Lew is not headed to the Department of Energy, but President Obama's pick for Treasury secretary has long experience in energy efficiency and clean energy and could prove a helpful ally to the energy industry.

Best known for his budgetary finesse as a two-time director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Mr. Lew also knows energy.

From 1988 to 1993, Lew was a partner at Van Ness Feldman, a Washington-based law firm focusing on energy and environment law. While at the firm, Lew specialized in issues related to power plant development, according to a White House press release. 

When he was tapped to replace Bill Daley as Obama's chief of staff last January, the Alliance to Save Energy praised Lew as a "friend of energy efficiency and clean energy." The energy efficiency advocacy group pointed to Lew's work in helping to develop the Electric Transportation Coalition, an industry organization now known as the Electric Drive Transportation Association.  

"Jack was passionate about the prospects that electric transportation and the energy efficiency gains and diversity the emerging technology promised our economy," said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy and former president and executive director of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, in a January 2012 statement. "His handiwork lives on in the Electric Drive Transportation Coalition and his work to advance new clean energy technologies and practices widened as his career took him once again into public service.”

Lew first served as White House budget director in the Clinton administration. In his second stint as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, under President Obama, Lew worked to increase funding for energy initiatives like ARPA-E, the Department of Energy's advanced energy technology research program, Callahan said. He left that position in 2012 to become Mr. Obama's chief of staff.

While the bulk of energy programs are run out of the Department of Energy, the Treasury oversees the 1603 program, which awards reimbursements in the form of cash grants for the installment of energy – mostly solar – properties. 

The program, started in 2009, has provided $13 billion in grants to 45,172 projects as of July 2012, according to the department, with a total of $13 billion in grants. The total installed capacity amounts to 20.5 GW.

When reached for comment on Lew's potential new post, Ms. Callahan said she expected continued support for energy efficiency initiatives.

"Obama is one of the most significant energy-efficiency champions, and Jack is in there to put in place the president’s policies and vision," Callahan said via telephone. "He will do that with passion and energy." 

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