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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Weird Science 

Context first:
The Bush administration is gearing up to push for second-term priorities -- including an energy bill, power-plant emissions legislation, and amendments to the Endangered Species Act -- under a cloud of accusations that it has manipulated federal scientific research on these and other issues to support its agenda. These arguments have been voiced most prominently by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonpartisan advocacy organization that issued a statement in 2004 charging the White House with "misrepresenting and suppressing scientific knowledge for political purposes."

To date, the UCS statement has been signed by more than 5,000 scientists, including 48 Nobel laureates. UCS issued reports in February and July of last year that documented dozens of cases of alleged tampering with science, including many involving environmental policy decisions. Before the presidential election, the Bush campaign and White House representatives dismissed these assertions -- and the fact that a number of prominent scientists publicly endorsed the Kerry-Edwards ticket -- as partisan politics. But debates about science show no sign of fading in the wake of the elections. Notably, in mid-November the National Academy of Sciences issued a report criticizing the use of litmus tests in filling scientific advisory committees.
Now, the specifics:
Scientists in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say they've been forced to alter or withhold findings that would have led to greater protections for endangered species, according to a survey released Wednesday by two environmental groups.

The scientists charge that top regional and national officials in the agency suppressed scientific information to avoid confrontations with industry groups or to follow the Bush administration's political policies . . . .

"There's nothing inappropriate about people higher up the chain of command supervising the work of people below them and reaching different scientific conclusions," said Hugh Vickery, an Interior Department spokesman.
The chain of command:
Now that Steven Griles is headed back to the private sector where he will cash in his IOU's for lobbying from within, President Brush Cuttin' Fool is promoting Lynn Scarlett to the number two spot at Interior. Who is Lynn Scarlett?

"There are two world views on improving the environment -- the old, and the new. The old vision is top-down, regulatory, punishment-driven. The new vision is bottom-up, technological, market-driven. New Environmentalism -- of the kind practiced by President Bush's Interior nominee Gale Norton -- makes the forces of green punishment and prescription uncomfortable."
–-Lynn Scarlett on the "New Environmentalism" (U.S. Newswire, January 24, 2001)
  • Scarlett defended George W. Bush’s clean air record in Texas.
  • Slams current EPA enforcement policy.
  • Opposed mandatory nutritional labeling.
  • Opposed pesticide restrictions.
  • Said air pollution controls in Southern California were too expensive.
  • Views environmentalism as anti-democratic.
  • Opposes consumer "right to know" laws.

Lynn Scarlett, a member of George W. Bush’s campaign advisory team on the environment, was appointed President of the Reason Foundation in January of 2001.

According to the 1999 Reason Foundation Annual Report, top funders include: C. Boyden Gray and David Koch (each individually contributed $25,000 or more in 1999), the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the JM Foundation, Charles G. Koch Foundation, Lilly Endowmet, Scaife Family Foundation, Sarah Scaife Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Sunmark Foundation.

Corporate Donors in 1999 included: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Forest and Paper Association, American Petroleum Institute, American Plastics Council, ARCO Foundation, BP Amoco, CA Building Industry Association, Chemical Manufacturers Association, Chevron Corporation, Chlorine Chemistry Council, Clorox, Coca-Cola, American and Continental Airlines, Daimler Chrysler Corp, Dow Chemical, Eastman Chemical, Edison Electric Institute, ENRON, Exxon Mobil, FMC Corporation, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Kimberly-Clark, Koch Industries, Koch Materials, Eli Lilly, Microsoft, National Air Transportation Association, National Beer Wholesalers, National Soft Drink Association, Pfizer, Inc, Philip Morris, Procter and Gamble, Shell Oil, Sun America, Union Carbide Corporation, United Airlines, Western States Petroleum, Watson Land Company, Whole Foods Market, Winston and Strawn.

The Distant Hope of a Silver Lining:
Last week, an international task force co-chaired by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) predicted a fast-approaching "point of no return" for climate change -- possibly in as few as 10 years -- after which the crisis and its symptoms will be irreversible.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).You probably didn't read about it in the U.S. papers, which largely ignored the findings -- just as you probably haven't been reading much about the Kyoto Protocol, though the treaty will go into effect in less than two weeks, with the conspicuous noncooperation of the world's most heavily polluting nation.

But, even as the Bush administration tries its darndest to pretend that nothing fishy is afoot with the climate, a handful of Republicans in the Senate are emerging as leaders in the fight against global warming -- and we don't just mean John McCain (R-Ariz.) . . . .

Other Republicans who have voiced support for greenhouse-gas caps are Sens. [Chuck Hagel (Neb.),] Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), Susan Collins (Maine), Judd Gregg (N.H.), and Dick Lugar (Ind.), as well as, of course, McCain. Among those on the fence but considered persuadable are Sens. Norm Coleman (Minn.), Gordon Smith (Ore.), Arlen Specter (Penn.), and John Sununu (N.H.).

Perhaps even more powerful than the shift of attitudes on Capitol Hill is the growing support for regulations among industry leaders. "The only way you'll convince the administration to change its position on greenhouse-gas regulation and truly get a sea change in Congress is to bring industry on board," says Doniger . . . .

This industry reality check arises from bottom-line concerns: If the problem is real and caps are inevitable (in the next administration, if not this one), it's less costly for industry to prepare for the regulations in advance and implement them gradually than to face steep cuts that must be achieved hastily.

"Sooner or later we'll reach a tipping point of concern in industry and Congress," says Doniger. "The White House will have no choice but to follow." The evidence seems to be mounting that it'll be sooner rather than later.

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