Jim Bernhard, founder of The Shaw Group Inc., of Baton Rouge, said he is in the running to replace Chu, WBRZ-TV reported Friday. Bernhard did not return two calls from The Advocate seeking comment.
Bernhard said several others also are being considered, according to WBRZ. Bernhard recently sold Shaw 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. A White House news release of Obama’s priorities would remain unchanged.
This morning Bernhard got yet another recommendation – after getting thumbs-up from Mary Landrieu, Steve Scalise and Don Briggs (Scalise said he’d be a big improvement over Steven Chu, who he called the worst Energy Secretary ever), this one from Rep. Rodney Alexander…
“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. 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 Sec. Steven Chu’s successor as soon as possible.”
The Shaw Group founder knows his way around the power business, having built nuclear plants around the world, and he’s well aware of how more traditional energy sources work.
Which is why we’re going to guess he isn’t getting the job as Energy Secretary – his background as the former chairman of the Louisiana Democrat Party notwithstanding, not to mention the history of max-out checks he’s written to Democrats from Cedric Richmond to Barack Obama.
The Obama administration isn’t going to have somebody who’s actually worked in private business in the energy sector as the Energy Secretary. If they thought along those lines, they would have already nominated someone like Bernhard.
Not to mention the raft of white guys who have already been nominated for cabinet posts. Bernhard isn’t pigmented enough – or female enough – to satisfy the diversity bean counters among the Washington crowd.
We’ll be happily surprised if we’re wrong, but the guess here is Jim will be disappointed. If he wants a job in Washington he’s going to have to run for one – and if CBI cleans out his office building on Essen Lane to downsize what’s left of the Shaw Group or move all those jobs to Texas, that might be more difficult to do in a year or two.