Science, Presidential Politics, and Solar Energy
Well. It’s been a long time. Here’s a few things that have been keeping my attention:
My last post here was on the Alex Berezow USA Today opinion piece on the anti-science nature of both the political left and right. It seems that story got quite a bit of attention in the science blogging community, including from Chris Mooney, who writes The Intersection, which is quite good and worth your effort. He makes some very strong points on why Berezow, and the resulting turn out in support of Berezow, are wrong. Here’s Mooney, in response to Kenneth Green, who wrote in response to Mooney’s response to the Alex Berezow piece (got that?):
Not only does Green dramatically downplay the Christian Right (free market conservatives’ cozy bedfellow, whether or not they want to acknowledge it). He doesn’t seem to understand that science abuse isn’t about getting something wrong. This happens all the time in science, in academia, etc. That’s okay, because science has a self correcting mechanism—and this is part of its very nature.
The real problem is therefore not mistakes. It’s attacking established knowledge, and spreading clearly refuted falsehoods, for political reasons. And clinging to them, sinking into denial. That is what we are actually talking about.
Indeed. The problem, as I see it, is a fundamental misunderstanding of scientific process. What it means when someone says “scientific consensus,” for example.
Second is the 2012 GOP Presidential Extravaganza. I missed the last two weeks of coverage, and suddenly Michele Bachmann is an afterthought, Herman Cain won a thing that probably means nothing (Ron Paul’s always winning something or other), Rick Perry is fading because he is a terrible debater, and Jon Huntsman said he wants to be a rising star. If you want to be a rising star, can you say that you want to be a rising star and not have it sound totally ridiculous? I don’t think so. Anyway, when did all this happen? Now Mitt Romney is going to win, which, well, was probably going to happen anyway, unless, you know, he loses. But who would he lose to?
The real story that has been consuming TRC is the “scandal” President Barack Obama finds himself in regarding the federal government’s guaranteed loans to the solar panel manufacturing company Solyndra. Every day I considered writing this story up, but kept getting too worked up, because there’s no scandal here, at all, no how no way. It’s not indicative of the failing of solar as an industry, which is doing very well. Nor it is indicative of poor vetting by the President. Rather, it is for the President terrible timing for a company who was out-competed, to go bankrupt. End of story.
Guaranteed loans for green energy companies are certainly not a Democrat only desire. And they absolutely should not be. Because they are smart policy. The US Gov’t made an investment to spur energy technology, and that investment didn’t pan out. That’s really not that big of a deal. It happens. It’s not a Democratic or GOP failing, it’s what happens when you can’t tell the future. Bad timing, embarrassing e-mails, over-zealous political maneuvering from the White House, I grant you all this. But scandal? I fail to see it. That Solyndra couldn’t compete in a global market for pv-cells is Solyndra’s fault. Or the fault of the Chinese, who are kicking our asses on solar manufacturing.