Why Obama Nominated NRDC Cofounder John Bryson As Commerce Secretary

Is it possible to separate economic growth from environmental damage? President Obama's nomination today of Natural Resources Defense Council cofounder John Bryson as Commerce Secretary means we're trying.

Dept. of Commerce seal

President Obama's nomination today of businessman and Natural Resources Defense Council cofounder John Bryson as Commerce Secretary is a refreshing sign for those who want economic growth and environmental protection to go hand in hand.

In addition to his role at the NRDC, Bryson has a laundry list of impressive accomplishments--he is the former CEO of Edison International (the parent company of Southern California Edison, which is the largest utility in California), as well as a director of corporations including Boeing, Walt Disney, and electric vehicle startup Coda Automotive. Perhaps most interestingly, Bryson is also the chairman of the board of BrightSource Energy, which you may remember as the company building giant Google-funded solar farms in the desert. He knows the financial potential of clean-tech innovation.

What does the Commerce Secretary actually do? And how will Bryson's background affect U.S. actions? In a bureaucratic twist, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association and the National Weather Service fall under the Commerce Department's purview. Both departments have a lot to do with monitoring and dealing with the results of climate change. With Bryson at the helm, perhaps they'll get more attention and funding.

During his tenure, Bryson will also be expected to "open up new markets abroad to promote jobs and opportunities here at home," according to a statement from Obama. That means leading U.S efforts to double exports over the next four years--and presumably making sure that our exports are part of sustainable growth in developing countries.

By nominating Bryson, Obama is ensuring that the government's business dealings at least take the environment into consideration (both the NRDC and the Chamber of Commerce have offered statements of support). Perhaps Obama realizes that our economic success as a country--and planet--depends on the wise use of our natural resources.

[Image: Flickr user Steven Snodgrass]

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

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