Wednesday, January 24, 2007


The National Academy of Sciences recently published a report that raises concerns over US resources for observing and predicting weather and climate. NASA has suffered a loss of some half a billion dollars with respect to its programs that observe the Earth, while NOAA is suffering through cost and schedule overruns on some of its own critical Earth observation programs. These are critically important programs that require adequate funding.
In his State of the Union speech, the President called for Congress to “control spending in Washington”. Given the push to balance the budget without raising taxes, gutting the civilian government would be necessary, since there is apparently no effort to control spending in Baghdad.
It's too late to spend the cost of facilitating civil war on the kinds of science that forewarn of a Katrina or put the climate change debate to bed. Any more words spent on "could've, would've, and should've" are wasted energy.
The President paid lip-service to the development and use of biofuels. The public should applaud him for his about-face on this topic. The implementation of biodiesel, instead of a plan to supplant fossil fuels by funding research into a horizon technology* like fuel cells, is a sound decision. However, the ponderous “diversification” of energy sources to yield a 20% reduction in gasoline use over the next 10 years, as the President suggests, is inadequate. Government is not the solution. Like so many environmental problems, the answer lies with entrepreneurs.
Given the enormity of the US agricultural sector, why is it that biodiesel isn't available from every filling station in the country? New businesses require demand. As long as we accept only what we are offered, businesses have little impetus to change.
Clearly, the government’s values and long-term plans are flawed. We have collectively chosen to spend money fighting a war for oil, rather than investing in energy independence and in our environment. Demand more and be part of the solution.

*It is not the author's intent to disparage fuel cell technology, nor to question its technical feasibility. It is characterized here as a horizon technology because of the difficulty in commercializing it.

1 comment:

jez said...

I myself have pondered why they don't take the war budget and send even a sliver over to the funding of energy research. I think that a renewable energy source for our auto obsessed nation is long past due.