Bryson is also board chairman of BrightSource Energy, a California-based solar company.
He is one of the co-founders of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the country’s top environmental groups.
NRDC President Frances Beinecke called Bryson a "visionary leader in promoting a clean environment and a strong economy."
"He has long recognized the benefits of efficiency and renewable energy technologies, and he understands the critical need for us to continue investing in them," Beinecke said in a statement Tuesday. "We look forward to working with John at the Commerce Department and with the rest of the Obama Administration in moving toward that brighter and more prosperous America.’’
He previously served as a co-chairman of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, an electric vehicles trade association, and as a member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change.
The Hill reported earlier Tuesday that Obama will nominate Bryson as Commerce secretary later this afternoon. Bryson would replace Gary Locke, who has been nominated as the next ambassador to China.
Obama praised Bryson in a statement Tuesday announcing his decision.
"I am pleased to nominate John Bryson to be our nation’s Secretary of Commerce, as he understands what it takes for America to succeed in a 21st century global economy," he said. "John will be an important part of my economic team, working with the business community, fostering growth, and helping open up new markets abroad to promote jobs and opportunities here at home."
—This story was updated at 12:22 p.m.