More on biofuels and legislating against science

Last week I posted an alert for the appropriations subcommittee markup session in which the profoundly dangerous Emerson amendment was defeated by 29-30 votes. It’s already a shocker that 29 representatives would raise their hands for something so mediaeval, exactly analogous to a vote to require the Federal Reserve to regulate interest rates without considering how economic models predict their effect on unemployment (or, I guess, to require NASA to conduct its business assuming the planets and stars all go around the earth).

This is coming back on the floor next week, and needs continued pressure to prevent the corn industry from cutting the legs off the US delegation in Copenhagen, not to mention requiring increased use of transportation fuels that actually cause more global warming than gasoline. It would not be a bad idea to call your Congressperson’s office on this: demand that EPA be allowed to use the best science for EISA and the renewable fuel standard and count indirect land use emissions as well as it can estimate them.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is collecting scientists’ and economists’ signatures on a letter. If you have a PhD, go here and sign. Otherwise, go here to send the request to your friends who qualify. The Iranians are getting their heads broken to save their country, we can spend a little time lobbying (and tolerate some duplicate spam emails) to save the planet.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.