Today marked the inaugural post from U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu on the Department of Energy’s new Energy Blog, which it has launched in an obvious effort to better engage with the American public. It’s timely in the wake of the BP oil spill and upcoming mid-term elections in November that could change the course of the department’s funding programs.

The blog’s goal is to provide a central location for people to hear from leaders working on different projects across the department. Chu and his cohorts have been very actively funneling millions of dollars into a wide range of technologies — from solar and wind to smart grid, geothermal, biofuels and more. But a lot of these projects are highly technical and their immediate benefit may not be obvious. The blog will play a role in clarifying where money is going and why, and how it could eventually alter the lives of average people.

“While the act of starting a blog is hardly novel, it is a first for us and part of our commitment to achieving the level of transparency, engagement and accessibility that you should expect from your government,” Chu writes in his first post.

Building on this goal, the Energy Department has also launched new presences on Facebook and Twitter (@energy). Already, it has been active on YouTube and Flickr, and Chu himself has been providing updates via his personal Facebook page. But today’s developments should extend its reach even further.

The Department has used Facebook and Twitter to field questions from the general public for David Sandalow, assistant secretary for policy and international affairs, and to provide updates from the Clean Energy Ministerial, a major meeting of energy leaders around the world to discuss renewables and other clean technologies.

Since launching early Tuesday morning, the Energy Blog has also reported on the Clean Energy Education and Empowerment “C-3E” Women’s Initiative designed to encourage more young women to study the science and engineering that could lead to future clean energy breakthroughs. The post was authored by Energy Undersecretary Kristina Johnson, who wrote from her own experience as a woman inspired to work in energy innovation.

The Department of Energy churns out press releases on its activities all the time. Today, for example, it announced $30 million more in funding to forge partnerships to make homes more energy efficient. The Blog may discuss the impacts of these news items, but will focus more on incremental developments, and on calling attention to programs, news, and projects that might interest people.