The Public, Politicians and Scientists
As usual, we will cover too much material in one page. However, joining the two issues of U.S. energy policy distorted by politicians with public knowledge about what is going on makes a commanding and entertaining topic.
Columnist Charles Krauthammer recently wrote that he is agnostic regarding global warming because catastrophe predictions rely on math models that make assumptions about planet conditions nobody really understands. So politicians, environmental activists (whoever those jerks are) and compliant scientists pose “solutions” to undefined or nonexistent “problems.” Quite clearly, the ambitious, arrogant and unscrupulous of both the intellectual left and right make issues with facts. I guarantee that I can get an array of experts by noon who will discuss, credibly in the eyes of listeners, whether 2+2 = 4 or 2+2 = 3.98 – or as lawyers say, “whatever answer you want.” The world is faced with problems in a climate and energy context. But what are “true” problems, what are useful public policies to confront and solve them, and how are they best derived?
America faces rising energy prices and, soon I predict, non-availability of fuels. It is not energy suppliers who are at fault but government constraints that are to blame for this condition. The public now agrees (20%) that high prices are not the fault of the oil companies (down from 34%). What about the majority? We have a Congress (courtesy of Speaker Pelosi) that mandates automotive “increased fuel-efficiency standards to 35 mpg by 2020,” as if a political-hack pronouncement has any affect on achievement of the goal.
Congress refuses to allow oil drilling and production in Alaska, but 60% of the public says “go for it.” Thankfully, the Senate is in the process of killing the Climate Security Act (also known as cap and trade), which was sponsored by John Warner (R-VA) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT). Essentially, this bill establishes a federal bureaucracy to regulate carbon emissions by all U.S. entities and allows trading over-or-under usage in a market. This creates the largest tax increase in U.S. history plus a permanent bureaucracy. Readers of this journal would be big losers because they tend to have a large carbon footprint. The bill is an abomination that certainly will reappear in the next Congress. It is astounding that House and Senate dim bulbs claim the ability (and $165,000 annual salaries) to go to the bathroom without supervision.
We can search high and low for a good way to explain the uneasy relationship between the public and “understanding technical stuff” and the frustrating failings about things so important to citizens – the price of energy. But there are problems with science “issues” that makes “desires” impractical, such as the fact that there aren’t enough watts per square meter on Earth from the sun to make solar a replacement option for burning fossil fuels or that nuclear power plants are not inherently unsafe. I finally found a humorous and cogent discussion of it and strongly urge you to go to www.industrialheating.com/madscience. This website is an eye-opener written by a scientist and technology author in the U.K. You are guaranteed to enjoy his perspective and explanation of relationships between the public, doofuses and science.
The chimerical world of non-technical people expects government policies (and politicians) to balance their concerns against science. Since there is a ratio of about 97 to 3 in favor of those without technical expertise, this means that the things that make scientists good at being scientists are not a universal blessing. The general public and politicos understand emotions, and neither really gives a fig about science. But the public is as suspicious of authority as it is of science, and the politicians really are more interested in control than they are about the other two players. The public and politicos conduct societal affairs by negotiation, anathema to techies whose outlook and structure is based on facts and who speak a different language in the necessary debates during policy mediations. The techies must learn to accept this perspective because that’s the way it is. The public and politicians have a view but not an education of technical issues, precisely because they don’t know anything about them.
All of this only becomes really important if public views and political policies create disaster within reality. I think that is about to happen for America regarding our energy future. IH