16 Dec 2008

Nobel laureate named Obama's energy secretary

4:59 pm on 16 December 2008

A Nobel physics laureate who is a strong backer of alternative fuels has been named United States President-elect Barack Obama's energy secretary.

Steven Chu, winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics and an early advocate for finding scientific solutions to climate change, will head the country's Energy Department.

He will work closely with former Environmental Protection Agency head Carol Browner, whom Mr Obama named to a new post that will co-ordinate White House policy on energy and climate change.

Mr Obama says his administration's priorities are to end the country's dependence on foreign oil and fight climate change.

Meanwhile, the legislature of the US state of Illinois has initiated proceedings that could lead to the impeachment of the state's embattled governor, Rod Blagojevich.

Mr Blagojevich has been arrested over allegations that he offered to sell to the highest bidder the Senate seat vacated by Mr Obama.

The state's Speaker, Mike Madigan, says he will appoint a committee to begin examining the case for impeachment.

Mr Obama says his team's internal review showed he had had no contacts with the governor's office and that his staff had not had any inappropriate discussions about the senate seat.

Mr Blagojevic denies any wrongdoing and has refused to resign.