Diary

The Scientific Left: Still on Its Honeymoon with Obama

Chris Mooney, author of the Republican War on Science, has a piece entitled “Hail to the intellectual president” in the May edition of New Scientist.

The piece includes the usual mantra of the scientific Left: namely that George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin, and so forth, embody the tradition of American anti-intellectualism. By contrast, Barack Obama, who embraces intellectualism, has the potential to usher in a new spirit of intellectual rigor in policy making.

With the coming of Barack Obama to the presidency, the phrase “sea change” is not too strong. Here is a former academic who is deeply familiar with the world of thought. In his inaugural address, Obama pledged to restore science to its “rightful place” in our government; heck, he even extolled the virtue of “curiosity”. And for the first time in history, he has appointed a Nobel laureate to the presidential cabinet. The worm has turned in American life – but for how long?

Mooney was a dogged critic of the Bush administration’s energy policy and the former President’s attitudes towards climate change. However his enthusiasm for the promise of President Obama’s approach to both climate and energy can barely be contained.

If Obama pulls off governing as an intellectual president, the dividends could be enormous. Already, he has been more than true to his word when it comes to the support of science. It is too soon to tell, but his soaring language about building a new energy future could be his Apollo programme, and could dramatically improve America’s long-term competitiveness.

Strangely missing from the piece is any mention of one of the President Obama’s boldest initial actions on energy policy, the elimination of funds for the Yucca Mountain nuclear storage facility.

As has been documented on this blog, the President, in close coordination with Majority Leader Harry Reid, gutted the Yucca project without giving the slightest consideration to the ramifications for America’s nuclear industry. This action arbitrarily undid decades of planning at the cost of tens of billions of dollars in nuclear rate payer funded studies.

With no definitive solution to the waste issue, America’s nuclear power industry may be unwilling to make the enormous investments necessary to build new nuclear power generating facilities.

Given that nuclear power is responsible for 20% of our power supply and 70% of our CO2 free energy, Mooney and others who profess grave concern about global warming should be deeply disturbed by this development.

What should be even more disconcerting to Mooney personally is the Obama administration’s disregard for complying with the scientific protocol proscribed for the Yucca facility. As was reported in the New York Times:

The site’s suitability is supposed to be established in hearings by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which must decide whether to license the repository. Now, the Obama administration is proposing to provide only enough money that project officials can answer questions from the hearings.

While this blatant politicization of energy science has failed to register on Mooney’s radar screen, it has not escaped the attention of others in the media.

Toledo Blade Editorial: NIMBY Rules

Yucca Mountain has been the sole site under consideration since 1987 and the time and treasure spent on it have been immense. America is left with a government that encourages nuclear power with one hand, takes away its waste options with the other, avoids its legal obligations with eyes wide open, talks up the importance of global warming, but can’t put its policies where its mouth is.

The Free Lance Star Editorial: Captain Atom he ain’t

A bipartisan group in Congress, consulting with nuclear scientists, geologists, and others, pegged Nevada’s Yucca Mountain to receive the nation’s nuclear waste. Department of Energy studies confirmed that Yucca was one of the safest possible repositories. But after 22 years and $13.5 billion of preparation–and no scientific evidence to refute its selection–Mr. Obama has defunded Yucca Mountain…

…Preening about “restoring scientific integrity” on stem cells while ignoring research on Yucca Mountain and nuclear energy is disingenuous hypocritical pick your word. In the pursuit of alternative energy sources, nuclear must be in the mix. And Yucca Mountain should be back on the map.

USA Today Editorial: Obama’s budget puts politics above science, leaves waste issue unsolved

When Obama lifted the ban on stem cell research last week, his press secretary said the president made it clear that “politics should not drive science.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened here.

Given Mooney’s past vilification of Republicans for supposedly letting politics instead of science drive their policy decisions, it would be expected that he and others similarly opinioned would express deep dissatisfaction with the President’s actions.

To date, that criticism has yet to appear.

It could be that the scientific Left is still basking in the return of “intellectualism” to the White House. Their exuberance must be blinding them to the fact that the era of “post-political science” has yet to be ushered in.

Crossposted at Conservatives for Science