Science first? Hardly

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on April 16, 2009

While campaigning Barack Obama vowed that he wouldn't subordinate science to politics like President George W. Bush had.

He was lying.

Barack Obama too ignores the science when it conflicts with his policy goals, as David Freddoso has noted:

But before this ceremony even took place, Obama’s administration had already begun cutting corners on its “science-based” rhetoric. Lubchenco’s very first regulatory decision in office, announced April 6, was to abandon, at least for now, her agency’s legally mandated goal to save certain New England fish-stocks. This decision was made with no scientific justification, but rather for political and economic reasons.

The Bush administration had developed a plan to end overfishing and replenish fish-stocks off the coasts of New England. The new regulations, which were to take effect this year, satisfied two major goals mandated under federal law: to replenish ten depleted stocks of New England fish by 2014, and to replenish seven other stocks on longer timeframes that stretch out to 2019 and beyond. Many of the stocks are not currently on pace to meet the deadlines set by the Stevens-Manguson Act, so the proposed regulations would have been onerous, costing the fishing industry as much as $35 million annually — about one-fifth of its total revenues.

But last week, Lubchenco drastically scaled back the Bush administration rules in order to help the fishing industry. Whether one agrees or disagrees with her decision, science is not driving it; as NOAA spokeswoman Maggie Mooney-Seus said, “the science is still the same.” Lubchenco’s downscaled rules, which will cost fishermen a mere $17.4 million per year, preserve short-term conservation goals but punt on long-term measures. They kick down the road the plans that scientists had proposed to rebuild stocks of pollock, witch flounder, Georges Bank winter flounder, and Northern windowpane.

Have you heard any major media reporting on this? Have you heard the Sierra Club or the Environmental Defense Fund or the World Wildlife Fund screaming bloody murder? Bush was doing what the science dictated, but was unpopular, and got no credit for it. (A similar situation played out early in Bush's first term when he tightened rules on diesel emissions -- something President Bill Clinton had refused to do -- but he got not a peep of praise from the environmental left.) Obama reverses Bush administration policy to the detriment of science and "sea kittens" and the compliant media ignores it.

Of course, it goes without mentioning that if Obama were truly putting the science first, we'd be building nuclear power plants all over as part of  his efforts to move away from carbon-based energy

If Obama were truly putting science first, he'd open Yucca Mountain to nuclear waste.

But Obama isn't putting science first. Like every other politician before him, he's putting policy first and science second. It's just that because his preferred policies are in line with those of the environmental left -- whose commitment to science is similarly one of convenience -- that he gets a pass.

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