Monday, March 13, 2006

Bush Announces Energy Breakthrough??

Bush recently announced that the US is on the verge of startling new energy breakthroughs.

This is the most entertaining part of the whole article:

On Tuesday, Bush plans to visit the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., to talk about speeding the development of biofuels.

The lab, with a looming $28 million budget shortfall, had announced it was cutting its staff by 32 people, including eight researchers. But in advance of Bush's visit, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman over the weekend directed the transfer of $5 million to the private contractor that runs the lab, so the jobs can be saved.

Great strategy shrub. Get all those research labs lean, mean and downsized so they'll be all primed to pump out the next revolutionary energy breakthrough. Right.You can find a copy of Shrub's speech to the funding starved NREL here.

You probably don't need to hear this but it's worth repeating. Scientific research under Bush has been
highly politicized and funding hasn't kept pace since he came to power. His record on funding research and development in the area of alternative energy isn't any better than his funding of research in general.
Despite the hoopla of the president's whirlwind tour, and his promises of more federal dollars in the future, the nation's premier center for research into wind, solar, and ethanol energy labors under a shrunken budget at a time when consumers are facing record-high prices for fossil fuels. Regardless of the last-minute move that allowed NREL to hire back its fired workers, the center's funding is down 11 percent from last year, and Bush's proposed budget would not even restore the lab to 2005 levels.

So why is Bush hyping up alternative energy all of a sudden? Is he privy to some earth-shaking new tech developments that will come to fruition with a bit more funding? I highly doubt it. More than likely he's just talking up some minor tech developments in order to stave off criticism from the energy independence crowd. The beneficial environmental and security effects of alternative energy development can't reasonably be denied even by the most rabid and cynical of the neocons. Another likely reason for hyping-up alternative energy developments is the need to make pre-emptive maneuvers to appease a furious US electorate in the event of $100 a barrel oil. If oil prices do rise that high, and the average citizen gets drained every time they go to the pump, feeding them dreams about a glorious alternative energy future is better than nothing. At least Shrub will be able to say he's doing something about the problem. Probably a smart idea considering the midterm elections are about half a year away.

I wonder how much further alternative energy would be if Gore were elected in 2000. I'm pretty certain he would have massively increased funding in this area after 9-11. Well presuming it would have happened on his watch ;-)


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