Pro-science

PRO-SCIENCE…. Late yesterday, Barack Obama held a press conference to introduce most of his environmental team, and the names coincided with the rumors from last week: Steven Chu for Energy Secretary, Lisa Jackson to head the EPA, Nancy Sutley to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Carol Browner to head a new a White House post as a coordinator on energy issues.

But in introducing Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Obama made a comment that stood out: “His appointment should send a signal to all that my administration will value science, we will make decisions based on the facts, and we understand that the facts demand bold action.”

Now, I realize this may sound like the soft bigotry of low expectations, but we’ve reached a point at which hearing a president praise “science” and “facts” emphatically is so refreshing, and so encouraging, it raises hopes about the new-found importance of reality in government. As Greg Sargent noted, “Obama’s lines today will encapsulate for liberals as strongly as anything Obama has said just how big the potential of the moment feels right now, since the previous administration’s disdain for ‘science’ and ‘facts’ contributed perhaps as much as anything else to the nightmarish quality the last eight years held for them.”

Quite right. Two little words, one big message.

Indeed, it’s not just Obama. The pro-science party is evident on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, too.

As the White House tries to pick up the pieces of the auto industry bailout, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is already looking ahead to pumping more science-related spending into the massive economic recovery bill Democrats will begin moving through Congress next month.

The contrast Monday was striking. The Bush administration was sorting through the immediate crisis facing General Motors Corp. even as a new legal analysis by the Congressional Research Service raised red flags that could force Treasury to take a more roundabout route in providing aid.

Pelosi, by comparison, seemed reborn, having never liked the financing scheme for the $14 billion auto loan bill, which diverted funds from an advanced-technology program she wanted to speed the production of more-energy-efficient cars. Fresh from one of her “innovation agenda” events at Princeton University on Monday morning, the California Democrat told a Capitol press conference that the $500 billion to $600 billion economic recovery package would emphasize science as a path forward for the nation, not just public works.

What does Pelosi have in mind? Investing in renewable fuels, improving the electric grid, and investing more in the National Institutes of Health, among other things.