Mr Chu won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1997
Barack Obama has named physics Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu as his energy secretary and tasked him with finding alternatives to fossil fuels.
The US president-elect said the new administration's priorities were to end US dependence on foreign oil and fight climate change.
Naming his environment team, he said US energy dependence had grown even as global resources were disappearing.
Mr Obama has pledged to make big changes in environmental policies.
After eight years, he said, the US could not accept more broken promises when the new administration took over on 20 January.
Despite the current economic crisis, the president-elect has vowed to make the environment a priority with an ambitious promise of creating 2.5m new jobs, says the BBC's Andy Gallacher in Washington.
Announcing his environment team at a press conference on Monday, Mr Obama vowed to "move beyond our oil addiction and create a new hybrid economy".
"All of us know the problems that are rooted in our addiction to foreign oil," he said. "It constrains our economy, shifts wealth to hostile regimes and leaves us dependent on unstable regions."
He said these "urgent dangers" were only eclipsed by the long-term threat of climate change.
"Unless we act, [climate change] will lead to drought and famine abroad, devastating weather patterns and terrible storms on our shores and the disappearance of our coastline," said Mr Obama.
He added that there were boundless opportunities to create new jobs in the environmental industry.
The energy secretary-elect is an energy specialist and the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Ms Jackson would be the EPA's first African-American administrator
Dr Chu is a leader in the field of combating climate change using scientific methods.
He shared the 1997 Nobel Prize for physics for his work on cooling and trapping atoms using laser light.
Announcing his environment team nominations, Mr Obama named Lisa Jackson, currently the chief of staff for New Jersey's governor, as head of the environment protection agency (EPA).
Ms Jackson, who also worked for the EPA under Mr Clinton in the 1990s, would be the agency's first African-American administrator.
Mr Obama said Carol Browner, the former head of the EPA under Bill Clinton, would co-ordinate White House policy on energy and climate change.
He also named Nancy Sutley, a deputy mayor of Los Angeles, as head of the White House council on environmental quality.