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Surprising Science

Will the Economic Meltdown Be Good for the Environment?

Retrofitting the United States with green energy infrastructure presents a multi-trillion dollar herculean challenge to the Obama administration, but one that heralds the renewal of scientific thinking at the national level.

Senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Joseph Romm writes that mainstream media, namely the New York Times, still cannot frame climate issue effectively, not to mention many Republicans who still see counteracting climate change at odds with economic growth, but that the Obama cabinet’s scientific heavyweights are up to the task.

With Stephen Chu and Carol Browner leading the agenda, the Department of Energy and the EPA are expected to take a far more active stance in the nation’s environmental policies rather that the near figurehead position they held in the previous administration. Chu alone holds accolades that include a Nobel Prize and a long tenure as a physics professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

The proof of a scientific renaissance can already be seen in the recently signed stimulus bill which contains a host of green energy provisions, including a way for green energy innovators to bypass Wall Street which was previously responsible for monetizing most of the renewable energy sector’s tax credits.

The question remains how much of a green vision the Obama administration can retain amid business-as-usual politics in Washington, but the stimulus is an early sign science could get the last word. If the green agenda can further be internationalized–especially to coax China and India into compliance with binding environmental regulations–the administration could set the precedent for green policy making on a global scale. As Mrs. Clinton made her rounds in Asia, this has been a strong thrust of her overtures to foreign leaders.

Where do big thinkers see the White House taking its green agenda? Does the recession mark a golden opportunity for green initaitives and the role of science at the highest level or will business interests and U Street compromises mute the need for large-scale change?


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