Friday, June 7, 2002
1. HOUSE AIMS FOR DOUBLING NSF.
This week the House voted 397 to 25 to authorize 15 percent increases
for NSF for the next three years, setting the stage for a five-year doubling.
Congress's support for the NSF's programs runs far deeper than its recently
expressed criticism of the way the Foundation is being managed.
2. MARS ODYSSEY: FILL 'ER UP FOR THE
Last week, WN scoffed at media suggestions that water found on Mars by
the Odyssey orbiter might someday be used in manned missions to make rocket
fuel for the return trip. "Haven't you guys ever heard of electrolysis?"
indignant readers asked. Well, yes, we have, but to make that much hydrogen
you're going to need a lot of electricity. "No problem," we were told,
"the plan is to use solar cells." The plan? We called Jim Garvin, NASA's
head scientist for Mars Exploration. "We have no plans to find water in
the form of ice and convert it into anything," he snorted. But, you might
ask, is it a practical idea? Alas, the hydrogen found by Odyssey is in
the polar regions. Elsewhere, things look pretty dry. "OK, so they'll
send along a nuclear reactor." Good idea, but you'd better toss in a backhoe
too. Even in the polar regions the water is a foot or two below the surface
and it's in the form of frozen mud, maybe 20% water. So where does the
media get hold of these ideas? They must be coming from the Mars lobby,
which is dedicated to underestimating the difficulty.
3. YUCCA MOUNTAIN: NEVADA FILES
LAWSUIT AGAINST DOE.
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Yucca Mountain nuclear
waste site in Nevada angered opponents. The Department of Energy statement
is "tantamount to fraud," claimed the Nevada Attorney General's Office.
State officials charge that the DOE lost sight of the National Environmental
Policy Act and some provisions of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. That's
easy to do when you're a high roller. But Nevada filed suit against the
DOE in federal court to stop nuclear waste dumping, arguing that the DOE
failed to inform the public adequately. Previously, Governor Kenny Guinn
filed a congressionally-authorized veto of President Bush's authority
to proceed with the Yucca Mountain project. Clearly, Nevada just won't
quit. Nevada wants a valid EIS - one that the public can understand.
4. GLOBAL WARMING: "YOU'VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY."
In a report to the United Nations, the US acknowledged that the climate
is growing warmer. Moreover, the required EPA report, www.epa.gov/globalwarming/publications/car/,
identifies carbon dioxide pollution of the atmosphere from human activity,
as a possible culprit.
(Christy Fernandez contributed to this week's What's New.)