Friday, 9 November 1990 Washington, DC
1. US AND SOVIET UNION JOIN FORCES TO RESIST CO2 EMISSION LIMIT.
At the World Climate Conference in Geneva this week, the United
States blocked consensus on specific goals for reduction of
carbon dioxide emission. As What's New predicted a month ago
(WN 5 Oct 90), the US sided with such
backward nations as China and
the Soviet Union, and oil producers like Venezuela and Saudi
Arabia. Our traditional allies, Western European nations, Canada
Japan, New Zealand and Australia, said they could cut emissions
through energy efficiency measures at no net cost. A German
study even concludes they can make money--selling energy-saving
technologies to backward countries like the US. John Knauss, the
head of NOAA who led the US delegation, contended the revised
Clean Air Act would lead to significant CO2 reductions, but a
recent estimate from EPA put the reduction at only about 2%.
2. CONFERENCE ON DOD APPROPRIATIONS BILL TURNED INTO A PIG-OUT.
year ago, opponents of pork-barrel funding scored a rare victory
when Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) inserted a provision in the Defense
Authorization Bill requiring merit review of university research
grants. This year, however, the conferees slyly added a state-
ment to the Conference Report exempting their earmarks from the
merit review requirement and from the Competition in Contracting
Act as well. This set off a feeding frenzy among the conferees,
who proceeded to divide up some $100M taken from federally funded
research and development centers, such as Lincoln Labs. Money
went to places like the University of Scranton, an obscure Jesuit
college in the Poconos that doesn't offer a PhD; it got $10M for
a Technology and Applied Science Center. Then there were the
dingbat projects such as harnessing the aurora
(WN 2 Nov 90).
3. DOE IS DIRECTED TO STUDY USER FEES AT NATIONAL LABORATORIES.
Desperate for revenue sources that don't quack, the five-year
budget agreement revisits user fees. The study is to examine
fees based on "fair market value" for proprietary users and full
recovery of operational costs for others. The report is due in
six months. Laboratory managers and users alike agree that such
fees would discourage industry participation in basic research
and transfer funds from NSF to DOE. One laboratory manager be-
moaned the "ideological conviction that facilities should be run
as candy stores with payment by the consumer for each gum drop."
4. COLD FUSION UPDATE: DR. PONS CAME IN FROM THE COLD THIS WEEK.
The shy chemist showed up for a meeting with a scientific review
panel on Wednesday. The outside review panel, consisting of two
chemists, a metallurgist and a nuclear physicist, met with Pons
for two hours behind closed doors. The following day Pons met
with the Fusion Energy Advisory Panel at the state capital. A
joke making the rounds at the Cold Fusion Institute asks: Why is
it that neutrons, tritium and heat are never seen in the same
experiment? Answer: No one could make that many mistakes.