NYTimes.com Article: Op-Ed Columnist: Fly Me to the Moon
- The article below from NYTimes.com
has been sent to you by rickrise@....
Good article on the need for reduced oil dependence from the NYT
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Op-Ed Columnist: Fly Me to the Moon
December 5, 2004
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Of all the irresponsible aspects of the 2005 budget bill
that the Republican-led Congress just passed, nothing could
be more irresponsible than the fact that funding for the
National Science Foundation was cut by nearly 2 percent, or
Think about this. We are facing a mounting crisis in
science and engineering education. The generation of
scientists, engineers and mathematicians who were spurred
to get advanced degrees by the 1957 Soviet launch of
Sputnik and the challenge by President John Kennedy to put
a man on the moon is slowly retiring.
But because of the steady erosion of science, math and
engineering education in U.S. high schools, our cold war
generation of American scientists is not being fully
replenished. We traditionally filled the gap with Indian,
Chinese and other immigrant brainpower. But post-9/11, many
of these foreign engineers are not coming here anymore,
and, because the world is now flat and wired, many others
can stay home and innovate without having to emigrate.
If we don't do something soon and dramatic to reverse this
"erosion," Shirley Ann Jackson, the president of Rensselaer
Polytechnic and president of the American Association for
the Advancement of Science, told me, we are not going to
have the scientific foundation to sustain our high standard
of living in 15 or 20 years.
Instead of doubling the N.S.F. budget - to support more
science education and research at every level - this
Congress decided to cut it! Could anything be more idiotic?
If President Bush is looking for a legacy, I have just the
one for him - a national science project that would be our
generation's moon shot: a crash science initiative for
alternative energy and conservation to make America
energy-independent in 10 years. Imagine if every American
kid, in every school, were galvanized around such a vision.
Ah, you say, nice idea, Friedman, but what does it have to
do with your subject - foreign policy?
Everything! You give me an America that is
energy-independent and I will give you sharply reduced oil
revenues for the worst governments in the world. I will
give you political reform from Moscow to Riyadh to Tehran.
Yes, deprive these regimes of the huge oil windfalls on
which they depend and you will force them to reform by
having to tap their people instead of oil wells. These
regimes won't change when we tell them they should. They
will change only when they tell themselves they must.
When did the Soviet Union collapse? When did reform take
off in Iran? When did the Oslo peace process begin? When
did economic reform become a hot topic in the Arab world?
In the late 1980's and early 1990's. And what was also
happening then? Oil prices were collapsing.
In November 1985, oil was $30 a barrel, recalled the noted
oil economist Philip Verleger. By July of 1986, oil had
fallen to $10 a barrel, and it did not climb back to $20
until April 1989. "Everyone thinks Ronald Reagan brought
down the Soviets," said Mr. Verleger. "That is wrong. It
was the collapse of their oil rents." It's no accident that
the 1990's was the decade of falling oil prices and falling
If President Bush made energy independence his moon shot,
he would dry up revenue for terrorism; force Iran, Russia,
Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to take the path of reform -
which they will never do with $45-a-barrel oil - strengthen
the dollar; and improve his own standing in Europe, by
doing something huge to reduce global warming. He would
also create a magnet to inspire young people to contribute
to the war on terrorism and America's future by becoming
scientists, engineers and mathematicians. "This is not just
a win-win," said the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert
Michael Mandelbaum. "This is a win-win-win-win-win."
Or, Mr. Bush can ignore this challenge and spend the next
four years in an utterly futile effort to persuade Russia
to be restrained, Saudi Arabia to be moderate, Iran to be
cautious and Europe to be nice.
Sure, it would require some sacrifice. But remember
J.F.K.'s words when he summoned us to go to the moon on
Sept. 12, 1962: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade
and do the other things, not because they are easy, but
because they are hard, because that goal will serve to
organize and measure the best of our energies and skills,
because that challenge is one that we are willing to
accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we
intend to win."
Summoning all our energies and skills to produce a
21st-century fuel is George W. Bush's opportunity to be
both Nixon to China and J.F.K. to the moon - in one move.
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- --- In email@example.com, rickrise@e... wrote:
>I really wish these editorial writers would take a crash course in
> If President Bush is looking for a legacy, I have just the
> one for him - a national science project that would be our
> generation's moon shot: a crash science initiative for
> alternative energy and conservation to make America
> energy-independent in 10 years. Imagine if every American
> kid, in every school, were galvanized around such a vision.
thermodynamics. How many times now have we seen editorials written
by scientifically illiterate morons that seem to think there is some
miracle technological solution out there to make Americans
energy "independent" while at the same time driving 4+ ton vehicles
25 miles per day? It doesn't matter how much money is thrown at the
NSF -- nobody is going to invent a perpetual motion device.
- On 6 Dec 2004, at 12:27 PM, emccaughrin wrote:
> --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, rickrise@e... wrote:I suppose, though, that a generous reading of "alternative energy and
>> (...) a crash science initiative for
>> alternative energy and conservation to make America
>> energy-independent in 10 years. Imagine if every American
>> kid, in every school, were galvanized around such a vision.
> I really wish these editorial writers would take a crash course in
> thermodynamics. How many times now have we seen editorials written
> by scientifically illiterate morons that seem to think there is some
> miracle technological solution out there to make Americans
> energy "independent" while at the same time driving 4+ ton vehicles
> 25 miles per day? It doesn't matter how much money is thrown at the
> NSF -- nobody is going to invent a perpetual motion device.
conservation" might imply cutting back on -- and cutting out as far as
possible -- wasteful modes of transport, which would imply a need for
scientific research on improving urban environments and reshaping the
suburban landscape around more intelligent transportation choices (an
enormous, complex task that would require a lot of experimentation and
modelling). I can imagine that the NSF could fund a lot of very useful
research in these areas. A U.S. Carfree Institute, like what Joel
Crawford hopes to set up at some point, would stand to benefit
enormously from NSF research funding channelled into this area.
Long distance transportation-related news: an interesting article on
today's CBC website about a tomato shortage in Canada due to bad
weather earlier this year in the California and Florida
This is but a "foretaste" of what could be expected with increasing
transportation costs, with or without further (perhaps global
warming-induced) weather problems -- just the kind of thing Jim
Kunstler, among others, warns about.
Washington DC, USA
- --- In email@example.com, Christopher Miller
>You are being far too generous. The idea clearly being advocated by
> I suppose, though, that a generous reading of "alternative energy
> and conservation" might imply cutting back on -- and cutting out
> as far as possible -- wasteful modes of transport
Mr. Friedman -- and an embarassing number of "environmental"
organizations -- is that we blow billions on white elephant projects
like "intelligent" highway systems, hydrogen highways (i.e. "21st-
century fuel"), battery-powered hummers, etc. For politicians
(Democrat and Republican) it is a "win-win-win" situation. They can
say to their constituents that they are "environmental" by funding
such programs without having to make any of the difficult decisions
about reducing the gigantic subsidies sustaining sprawl.
> which would imply a need for scientific research on improvingReearch what, exactly?
> urban environments and reshaping the suburban landscape around
> more intelligent transportation choices (an enormous, complex
> task that would require a lot of experimentation and
Designing energy efficient cities and transport systems is already a
solved problem. Off-the-shelf technology already in use today could
eliminate America's energy deficit. But until the various structural
problems are fixed, there is no market incentive to do so.