Friday, December 7, 2007
Yesterday, ignoring a Bush veto threat, the House passed an energy bill.
Republicans in the Senate will try to gut it. The bill calls for the first
increase in automobile fuel-efficiency standards in 32 years and increased
use of renewable energy sources to generate electricity. Fuel eficiency
would go from 24 to 35 miles per gallon It's sad that American industry
has to be forced to make progress. The bill also provides tax incentives
to increase ethanol production sevenfold in 15 years. Two-thirds of that
must be cellulosic, even though a practical cellulosic ethanol process
does not yet exist. The assumption seems to be that the ethanol industry
is at least as smart as a termite swarm. It can be seen as a tacit
recognition that corn ethanol does not help the energy problem.
Well, there is if you're a mouse, but there is no reason to believe
that “induced pluripotent stem cells,” (iPS), won't work for people.
Naturally, those who believe that embryonic stem cells are one-celled
people who would rather be autoclaved than used in research are crowing
that “we told you to find another way.” But Rudolf Jaenisch of the
Whitehead Institute pointed out that the work was possible only because
researchers had embryonic stem cells to work with first.
The culture war entered a new phase yesterday when Romney, a Mormon,
sought to reassure the Christian faithful that his religious sect has much
in common with theirs. I cannot say whether he succeeded, but he did
little to reassure the rational minority. It may have been a calculated
move to stimulate liberal calls for separation of church and state, thus
proving his conservative Christian credentials. The Rapture can't come
The director of science of the Texas Education Agency for 9 years,
Christine Comer has been forced to resign after forwarding an e-mail
message announcing a presentation in Austin by Barbara Forrest, a
professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, co-author
of "Creationism's Trojan Horse," and an expert witness at the Dover, PA
school board case. It was certainly relevant; the Texas science
curriculum calls for the teaching of evolution. The standards, moreover,
are up for review.
Yesterday's scheduled launch of the space shuttle Atlantis was halted
because of problems with the fuel sensors. The mission was to install a
European science laboratory called Columbus on the station. It will
provide astronauts additional facilities with which to do nothing. The
primary purpose of the module involves the effects of weightlessness on
human physiology. In effect, humans are being sent into space to study
how humans respond to being sent into space, which seems rather circular.