That’s the question I pose in my latest post at DeSmogBlog:
Essentially, President Obama wants us to recreate the same sense of urgency, and the same national unity, but without the same fear of another competitor country, unless that country is supposed to be China—which, the President noted, recently “became the home to the world’s largest private solar research facility, and the world’s fastest computer.” Okay, that’s something of a spur…but it is not, historically speaking, a Sputnik. (And, making China into the enemy is a very problematic notion.)
Obama wasn’t even speaking in a national security frame last night when he invoked Sputnik. He was speaking in an economic one. The sense of shared threat was displaced from an external other to our own economic problems—joblessness and deficits.
And that’s the real trick: Is the yearning for national unity, in the wake of Tucson, enough to overcome this chief non-parallel in Obama’s Sputnik analogy? Because undoubtedly, investing in more clean energy research, and more research in general, will spur jobs and innovation. But will we remember to forget our differences in the meantime? Is there some glue that will hold us together? Given the way politics now operate in the U.S., it’s hard to be so optimistic.
You can read the full post here.
Simple–drink every time Obama says “global warming” or “climate change.”
If that’s your strategy, you may end up a teetotaller, as I point out at DeSmogBlog:
As Joe Romm notes, even those pre-speech analysts who do intimately understand the climate issue (and most do not) want the president to talk about energy innovation, not how much of a risk we’re running from ongoing warming. And at a time when the unswerving focus is the economy and jobs, and the president has just named the CEO of a clean energy company, General Electric, to head his new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, you have to figure they’re on to something.
After all, even in the last State of the Union Obama only mentioned climate change twice. And he only did so to quickly reframe it as a clean energy issue…
Is this a bad thing? Not, as I argue, if you’re a sheer political realist.
You can read the full DeSmogBlog SOTU post here.
Click on the map to watch CNN’s time-lapse video
Now go read Nicholas Kristof’s related Op-Ed in the NYTimes:
The national campaign to get President Obama to emote, throw crockery at oil executives and jump up and down in fury has failed. But here’s a long-term solution: Let’s anoint a king and queen.
[It] would give President Obama time to devise actual clean-up policies. He might then also be able to concentrate on eliminating absurd government policies that make these disasters more likely (such as the $75 million cap on economic damages when an oil rig is responsible for a spill).
Our president is stuck with too many ceremonial duties as head of state, such as greeting ambassadors and holding tedious state dinners, that divert attention from solving problems. You can preside over America or you can address its problems, but it’s difficult to find time to do both.
* Update: You can now vote for king and queen of America at Vanity Fair. *
In these difficult economic times, cap and trade couldn’t survive. Wall Street, massive industry opposition, and political polarization were among the leading factors that killed the bill by Waxman and Markey. Now what?
Senators Cantwell and Collins have proposed a 39-page plan called “cap and dividend.” It’s very similar to what Obama discussed during his campaign and would auction 100 percent of pollution permits to producers and fossil fuel wholesalers and return three-quarters of revenue to consumers for high energy costs. Not bad.
Additionally, Senators Kerry and Graham are working on a new bill. According to The New York Times, it would:
include a cap on greenhouse gas emissions only for utilities, at least at first, with other industries phased in perhaps years later. It is also said to include a modest tax on gasoline, diesel fuel and aviation fuel, accompanied by new incentives for oil and gas drilling, nuclear power plant construction, carbon capture and storage, and renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
I’ll be following the energy policy discussion as it continues with great interest. What do you want to see in the bill?
Here’s the part of last night’s speech that is directed at us nerds:
Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history – an investment that could lead to the world’s cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year’s investments in clean energy — in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.
The new investments in science were wonderful–but will they be able to continue with the president’s proposed three year “freeze” on spending?
But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.
I know greens are ticked about this part of the speech. The conjunction of nuclear, drilling, and clean coal made them understandably apoplectic. But it seems to me that now that Democrats have lost their supermajority in the Senate, it may be necessary to give some ground on these areas if we want a real energy plan to go through. And it sounds like Obama is willing to do that.
I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year I’m eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.
I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here’s the thing – even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future – because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.
Go Greg Craven–Obama made your argument!
I’m glad the president isn’t backing down on the Senate bill. I am not in a position to handicap the votes, but, let’s face it: George W. Bush would have gotten the bill through without a supermajority in the Senate. He did it again and again. If Democrats play tougher, and smarter, they can still put us on a path towards solving the climate problem.
I recently appeared on this show, and I wasn’t the only one. Here’s the guest list:
Stewart Brand – author of the newly published Whole Earth Discipline
Dr Janet Rowley – human geneticist at the University of Chicago
Chris Mooney – author of The Republican War on Science and Unscientific America
Reverend Robert Sirico – founder of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty
Professor Jared Diamond – Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs and Steel: How Human Societies Fail
Oliver Morton – Energy and Environment Editor for The Economist
Dr Brent Blackwelder – President Emeritus of Friends of the Earth, United States
All in all, I have to say it made for a crowded, but very interesting, debate about science, politics, and society in the U.S., exactly one year after President Obama promised to restore science to its “rightful place,” & c & c.
I found that I agree with Stewart Brand about a lot. I also found that I agree with Robert Sirco about pretty much zero–and the same goes for Brent Blackwelder, at least based on what I heard on the show.
Oliver Morton’s comments on science and the American frontier were either deep or brilliant, I’m not sure which. But they gave me a little chill.
Based on his comments, I think Jared Diamond would like Unscientific America.
Oh, and Janet Rowley: Loved her comments on Leon Kass assigning an anti-science short story, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birth-Mark, at the first meeting of the President’s Council on Bioethics under Bush…an episode that should never be forgotten.
Listen to the whole program here.
AP science reporter Seth Borenstein–known for, among other things, this brilliant story which showed that there is no statistical global “cooling” since 1998–is at it again, this time with a lighter innovation. He is interviewing people like Leonard Nimoy about whether our deliberative, rational, calm, and science loving president Barack Obama is, well, Spock.
“The comparison to Spock is, in my opinion, a compliment to him and to the character,” Nimoy tells Borenstein.
Here’s more of the story, including a quote from yours truly:
A lot happened while I was out west. There was a senator’s 250 nm move left and the President’s promise that 3% of the GDP would go to research in science and technology. And you can bet I was elated when the Obama administration overturned Bush’s eleventh-hour rule intended to weaken protections of the Endangered Species Act:
Passed in January 2009, the Bush-era rule lifted the requirement that federal agencies consult wildlife experts with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration before taking actions that could harm listed species. The Bush move allowed federal agencies to decide for themselves if their own projects, such as roads, dams and mines, would hurt species.
On a personal note, it’s also been a productive and busy week. I visited Bodega Marine Laboratory and enjoyed volunteering on some fascinating research in Boonville, California where cattle roamed around our field site. I also coincidentally met Mary Roach who is as delightful in person as she comes across on the pages of Bonk.
Today I’m back east in NYC with Chris to plan several upcoming events. While we’re wandering the city much of the afternoon, here’s a glimpse of the landscape out west I recorded using The Flip: