Push on for Obama to name Bernhard energy secretary

02 05, 2013 by Monroe News Star

Fifth District U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander on Monday joined a chorus of Louisiana leaders and politicians supporting Baton Rouge businessman Jim Bernhard as President Obama's next U.S. energy secretary.

Jim Bernhard, founder of The Shaw Group Inc. of Baton Rouge, told a TV station last week that he is in the running to replace current Secretary Steven Chu, who is stepping down.

"Jim is a proven leader whose relevant experience and skill make him a top contender for this critical role, especially as America continues to fight to become energy independent," said Alexander, R-Quitman. "Additionally, he is a responsible businessman and comes from an energy-producing state, putting him in a unique position to offer fresh ideas to help lower energy costs and achieve energy sustainability.

"I have no doubt Jim Bernhard is the right selection, and I urge the president to name him as Secretary Steven Chu's successor as soon as possible."

Bernhard is the son-in-law of Louisiana Tech University President Dan Reneau. He is married to Reneau's daughter Dana.

Chu offered his resignation to President Barack Obama in a letter Friday. He said he would stay on at the Department of Energy at least until the end of February and may stay until a successor is confirmed.

Bernhard recently sold The Shaw Group to Texas-based CB&I for more than $3 billion.

White House spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm declined to comment about Bernhard, except to say there are no new personnel announcements to make regarding the energy secretary.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said in an email response that Bernhard would make a great choice.

"Jim Bernhard is an industrialist and an environmentalist who has dedicated his life to being a responsible steward of our natural resources," Landrieu stated.

Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, a trade group, also endorsed the selection of Bernhard. "He understands the energy business and he comes from an energy state."