The U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee on Thursday passed by voice vote the nomination of Franklin M. Orr, Jr., to be the Under Secretary for Science, Department of Energy. The nomination, along with 10 others to various posts at the Energy Department and the Department of the Interior, now goes to the full Senate. A vote has not been scheduled.

The Obama administration nominated Orr, 66, last fall. The committee held a hearing on his nomination and two others in December. If confirmed by the Senate, Orr will be responsible for overseeing all of the energy and science research programs of the Department of Energy, including the majority of the national laboratories. If confirmed, he will retire from Stanford to accept the post.

Lynn Orr, Director, Precourt Institute for Energy

"I am very much honored to be considered for the position of under secretary for science at DOE. Providing the energy the world needs to support modern societies and at the same time reducing the impacts of energy use are central challenges for this century," Orr said. "DOE is a critically important sponsor of energy research for the nation, and I look forward to the opportunity to help strengthen that effort. I am very grateful to my many Stanford student and faculty energy colleagues for all they have taught me about the importance of the energy challenge and the opportunities we have to change our energy systems in a very positive way."

Orr's position would be part of a DOE reorganization recently announced by Secretary Ernest Moniz. Moniz has expanded the under secretary for science role to encompass both science and energy. Departments under the position's purview include the Office of Science, the Office of Fossil Energy, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Nuclear Energy, the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, the Office of Indian Energy and the Office of Technology Transfer Coordinator.

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford would be one of the national laboratories to also reside within the new organizational unit.

"We must have the ability to closely integrate and move quickly among basic science, applied research, technology demonstration and deployment," Moniz said in a July memo outlining the DOE organizational changes. "The innovation chain is not linear, but rather one that requires feedback among its various elements. This is particularly the case with regard to clean energy as we work to implement the President's Climate Action Plan. This Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Energy will provide us the framework to make further improvements in this regard."

In order to accept the appointment, upon Senate confirmation Orr will step down from his post as the director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, which he has led since the institute was created in 2009.

The $100 million Precourt Institute, founded by primary donors Jay Precourt and the husband-and-wife team of Thomas Steyer and Kat Taylor, has drawn upon deep expertise from across the campus and around the world to develop sustainable energy solutions and search for ways to reduce atmospheric levels of carbon. The Precourt Institute and the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy were established to foster a fully enriched campus-wide, interdisciplinary research effort that weaves together science and technology research with equally important research on energy economics, policy, finance and the behavior of energy consumers.

Prior to leading the Precourt Institute, Orr served as the founding director of the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford from 2002 to 2008.

Since 1985, Orr has been an associate professor and professor in Stanford's Department of Energy Resources Engineering (formerly the Department of Petroleum Engineering). He was dean of the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford from 1994 to 2002 and chairman of the Department of Petroleum Engineering from 1991 to 1994. Orr held several other research positions from 1970 to 1985 in New Mexico, Texas and Washington, D.C. He received his BS degree from Stanford University and PhD from the University of Minnesota.

Updated: Jan. 21, 2014

The original version of this article was published in the Stanford Report on Nov. 14, 2013.