Obama taps former energy exec for Commerce helm

President Obama has nominated John Bryson, an environmental activist turned corporate power broker, to lead the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Credit: The Walt Disney Company

United States President Barack Obama has chosen energy industry veteran John Bryson to head the Department of Commerce, signaling a more rigorous emphasis on the administration's "green jobs" agenda.

Bryson will be tasked with meeting Mr. Obama's goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next four years, CBS News reports. Part of that work will include developing renewable energy technologies, which have already begun to revitalize depressed and rural communities.

Bryson's CV conveys outwardly conflicting experiences as an environmental activist who served as legal counsel for the National Resource Defense Council; a California state environmental and utility regulator; and yet, he became chief executive of for-profit electric generator and distributor Edison International.

His tenure at Edison included strong advocacy for nuclear power, which drew condemnation from anti-nuclear activists and fiscal watchdogs opposed to nuclear fuel cycle subsidies. Bryson was rumored to have been in the running for U.S. Energy Secretary.

Bryson has served on corporate boards for Boeing, Coda Automotive, and Disney; earning him praise and support today from the right-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Those types of endorsement will be helpful to Bryson, who still has to make it through the Senate's confirmation process.

I can't help but notice the duality in President Obama's decision to nominate Bryson, and how that mirrors Bryson's own life: an environmental focus with strong business sense. The combination of record carbon emissions in 2010 and persistently high unemployment makes Bryson an extremely attractive candidate for the position.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com