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Science and Scientific Vested Interests

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There is science -- and then there is scientific vested interests.

With a denier of science in The White House -- whether it has to do with the climate crisis or COVID-19 and so on -- there is a major push, including by Democratic officials, for making science the basis for governmental decision-making.

That's completely understandable.

But what about the push by some scientists to politically further areas of science and technology that they favor? Science might be objective -- but that doesn't mean all scientists are.

Take Congressman Bill Foster.

An atomic physicist from Illinois, for 23 years he worked at Fermilab in Illinois, established in the 1960s and run by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. With the AEC disbanded in the 1970s, it fell under the U.S. Department of Energy, which still runs it.

Foster, elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 on the Democratic line, is -- no surprise -- a booster of atomic energy. "As a scientist, Bill Foster believes that nuclear power can be made safe, and has been made safe in the United States," it is declared on his billfoster.com website. "Waste disposal remains a technically possible but politically unsolved problem." Click here.

"What is missing in the nuclear debate," it says, "is an accurate understanding of the costs of nuclear compared to other low-carbon sources. In the short-term it appears that low natural gas prices from hydro-fracturing technology [fracking] may make the capital investment in new nuclear plants hard to justify -- even at sites where the licensing and environmental permitting is already in place. In the longer term, we should press ahead with advanced technologies such as inherently safe High-Temperature Gas [atomic] Reactors with high Carnot efficiency and noncorrosive coolants, small modular reactor designs, inertial and magnetically confined fusion energy, and accelerator-driven Thorium cycle energy production."

Moreover, it goes on, "Climate change is a worldwide crisis that demands a worldwide solution. That is why Bill Foster, as Congress's only Ph.D. Physicist [the P in physicist is capitalized on his website], has been a leader in securing federally funded research and development into clean, safe, and low cost energy."

The claim that nuclear power is among "low-carbon sources" is also the current major nuclear industry PR claim. In fact, the "nuclear fuel cycle"--especially mining, milling, "enrichment" to produce nuclear plant fuel--is carbon-intensive. And nuclear plants themselves emit carbon--radioactive carbon-14.

Foster in a Democratic primary this year was challenged by Rachel Ventura, a member of the Will County Board in Illinois, who describes herself as a "progressive". She is also an environmentalist who earlier worked as a naturalist for Georgia State Parks.

"Will County is effectively the 'dumping grounds' for Chicago's dirty energy industry and garbage," she declared in campaign literature. "Will County is home to two coal plants, two refineries and one nuclear power plant," the twin-reactor Braidwood nuclear power plant.

She told patch.com/Illinois that the "Green New Deal is a centerpiece of my campaign" for both environmental and economic reasons. "I believe we can replace warehouse jobs with jobs building windmills and installing solar panels. I believe that we can replace the sweatshops in Aurora [a city, the second in population in Illinois after Chicago and in the Congressional district]... with better-paying jobs building energy efficient window and doors." Click here.

She supports the Future Energy Jobs Act, pending before the Illinois General Assembly, which emphasizes solar and wind power and energy efficiency and commits the state to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

Ventura noted that Foster "argues that his Ph.D. somehow makes him a better lawmaker, yet he has become part of the broken pay-to-play system that only rewards those who can afford to contribute to political campaigns." Foster "has taken millions of dollars from big banks, hedge fund managers, insurance companies, big Pharma and even money from fossil fuel companies".

She wants to see nuclear power replaced by energy from solar, wind and hydropower.

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Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury and host of the nationally syndicated TV program Enviro Close-Up.
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