Posts by Clark A. Miller
Elisabeth Rosenthal’s latest article in The New York Times Sunday Review is the latest rehash of one of the oldest debates surrounding energy—the ongoing flap over where to site the technologies needed to transport energy from where it is produced to where it is consumed. What is particularly striking in this debate is how locked in this debate seems to have become around what Rosenthal calls “a reality that Americans seem determined to forget: Large-scale energy is typically produced in remote places and inevitably needs to be transported to the populated areas where it is used.”
In this Soapbox post, CSPO Associate Director Clark Miller discusses the Department of Energy's little secret... that it is not and has never been the nation’s lead agency on energy policy.
Journalists and public administrators need to get better at understanding complex socio-technological systems—and they need to get better fast.
Entergy Corporation’s latest tactics in its fight with the State of Vermont reminded me today why the energy industry in the United States has such a bad reputation with the public. It’s an approach and a reputation that the industry needs to work hard to change if the United States is going to make a successful transition to sustainable energy in the coming years.
David Morrow, Robert Kopp, and Michael Oppenheimer, in Environmental Research Letters, have called for establishing an International Climate Engineering Research Review Board – an IRB for efforts to engineer the planet. I concur.
I worry a great deal about the uncertainty and risks associated with geoengineering. But here I want to focus on something else: the faulty framing of the problem from the outset.
Geoengineering is the latest controversial science to show up at Asilomar – a conference site now famous for hosting the first meeting of biologists calling for self-regulation of recombinant DNA experiments in the 1970s. At a meeting in late March, 2010, scientists exploring geoengineering will seek common ground on standards for proper conduct of experiments with the Earth’s climate system.
Over the past few months, policy failures in health care reform and climate change have stunned the world. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been so surprised. At the heart of both problems are “policy thickets” that must be untangled before significant progress can be expected. What do I mean?
In the years immediately following World War II, a debate raged among U.S. policy officials over whether to place nuclear weapons – and the technological production systems that made them possible – in the hands of the military. They decided no, instead establishing the Atomic Energy Commission as a civilian nuclear weapons agency. Their goal: to ensure democratic control over the production and use of this most dangerous form of technology. I wonder, today, whether the United States ought to ask the same question about technologies of human enhancement.
What kinds of people do we imagine inhabit the world? This question came to mind as I was reading the Executive Summary of America’s Energy Future, a forthcoming report from the National Academy of Engineering.
Are lizards deficient because they are cold-blooded? Are humans deficient because they don’t have wings?
It is interesting that democracies seem particularly unwilling to engage their publics in meaningful dialogue. They’ll poll them, but not ask them to participate in fashioning a collective future. Perhaps it is a failure of legal imagination.
I was reminded this week of a great misconception Americans hold about technology... believing that the question is whether or not to regulate technologies. In the United States, we regulate all technologies. Laws permeate our technological infrastructure, making it not so inappropriate that some scholars speak of the technological constitution of modern life.
Dr. Clive Svendsen at the University of Wisconsin has sought to use human stem cells as biological pumps that can be implanted inside the human body where they will pump out drugs to cure diseases. Dr. Charles Murtaugh at the University of Utah wants to insert stem cells into the pancreas to produce insulin so diabetes sufferers will no longer have to carry around mechanical pumps. The pumps will be inside, instead, using the body’s resources to operate as little biological engines.
As The New York Times pointed out in its editorial, limitations still remain on federal funding of stem cell research. The Times is right to argue for federal funding of this research, but they do so for the wrong reasons. It’s important to get the reason right.
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