Private capital awaits “long-term signal” on carbon – Chu

“That long-term signal is very important,” Chu said. “There is a lot of capital right now staying on the sidelines, wanting to know what is the signal, what is it going to be.”

Elsewhere, he said the "blue-ribbon" commission he is forming to explore long-term solutions to nuclear waste management will be announced soon.

The Obama administration has abandoned federal plans launched in the 1980s to build a high-level waste dump inside Yucca Mountain in Nevada. “We want this blue-ribbon panel to step back and make some reasonable assumptions about what do we know today that we didn’t know 25 years ago,” Chu said.

Overall, he sees a glass that’s half-full when it comes to working with Congress. The administration and congressional Democrats face a major challenge to win 60 Senate votes for a climate and energy bill that includes an emissions cap.

“There are certain people who have just decided they are not going to come around, and so that is life. I am not so wildly optimistic that I think I can convince everyone,” Chu said. But, he added, “A large bipartisan group is willing to listen.”

He also surveyed the lay of the land internationally heading into the Copenhagen climate talks. Chu lauded what he calls China’s growing recognition of threats from climate change, and increasing efforts to deploy renewable energy and efficient coal-fired power plants.