On the Clock: John Edwards on Education, Energy and Climate Change
12 Jul, 2007 12:18 pm
Bora posted an exclusive interview* with John Edwards today, asking all kinds of science centered questions about NASA, global warming, education, etc.
For the sake of our future, we need to start young. Our education system shortchanges the skills our children need for the future--math and science, creativity and critical thinking. Every day you can read reports about how we're falling behind in math and science--our 9th-graders are 18th in the world in science education. We need to invest in the next generation of math and science teachers for our schools. Ninety-five percent of urban high schools report problems getting qualified science teachers. We need higher pay for teachers, college loan forgiveness, and better teacher training programs. We also need more kids going to college. I will create a national initiative called College for Everyone to pay one year of public-college tuition, fees, and books for more than 2 million students. If we are to compete in the new global economy we must emphasize science, engineering and other technical fields in our education system....but focusing on sci/tech education as a financial investment for the future isn't going to cut it. Phys ed and the arts have continually been cut back in schools while everyone (justifiably) frets about science and math scores. When a city needs revitalization, who gets the tax breaks to move in? The artists, of course. (Lucky bastards.) Interdisciplinary communication would be a good area to stress as well, not for mainstream media, but to speak eloquently on behalf of science and conservation lobbies and in political forums.
Liberals have been talking about free higher education for a while, and Edwards' plan seems like a good step in that direction, though I wonder how far it would set us back financially at this point.
Edwards' (and the dems' in general) position on climate change and the energy crisis is somewhat less inspiring:
...the U.S. needs to reduce our global greenhouse emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. As president, I will enact a national cap on carbon emissions that meets that goal.Good. Somewhat late perhaps, but good nonetheless.
In terms of how we get there, we need to invest in renewable energies like wind, solar, and biofuels.Wrong. With the exception of solar energy, we're still not sure what kind of ecological ramifications wind and biofuels will have in the long term. Wind energy is wreaking havoc on our forests and on bird and bat migrations in Western Maryland and Pennsylvania. Biofuels seem to be a waste of time in general, and potentially destructive to natural habitats.
As PZ says in his analysis:
He also supports one major boondoggle: ethanol. It's a farm subsidy, not an answer to our energy problems.Bingo. Brazil's grand ethanol program comes at a high cost to the rainforests in the north. Orangutans are losing habitat in Borneo at a startling pace because of the biodiesel hype. These politicians need to get together not only with researchers and lobbyists from these alt energy companies or the organizations supported by them, they need to listen to independent ecologists who can assess the impact of sustainable fuels on natural systems. We need to eliminate the guesswork. They might turn out to be worse for the biosphere than fossil fuels.
And we have to raise the fuel-efficiency standards significantly in this country. I believe the number is 40 miles per gallon by 2016. That would single-handedly reduce oil demand by 4 million barrels per day.Excellent. We need that standard ASAP.
We must lead the world to a new climate treaty that commits other countries--including developing nations--to reduce their pollution. I will insist that developing countries join us in this effort, by offering to share new clean energy technology and, if necessary, using trade agreements to require binding greenhouse reductions. I will create a New Energy Economy Fund by auctioning off greenhouse pollution permits and repealing subsidies for big oil companies. The fund will support U.S. research and development in energy technology, help entrepreneurs start new businesses, invest in new carbon-capture and efficient automobile technology and help Americans conserve energy. Finally, we must reduce the demand for more electricity through efficiency for the next decade, instead of producing more electricity.Blah, blah, blah. More speculative B.S. It's not very popular to say, flat out, "We need to stop using so much." "Carbon-capture" and "greenhouse pollution permits" sound so damn sexy.
Press that hot button, Edwards & Co. It's still only one symptom.
Originally posted at The Voltage Gate on July 9, 2007
* Exclusive: Interview with Senator John Edwards on Science-Related Topics