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The Sciences

Don't Know Much About Technology: McCain Tackles ScienceDebate Questions

Reality BaseBy Melissa LafskySeptember 16, 2008 1:58 AM

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The ScienceDebate2008 project put together 14 questions for the candidates covering all the major bases, including climate change, energy, education, national security, biotech, conservation, and health care. (For a full list, go here.) Earlier this month, Obama submitted his responses. Now McCain has followed suit. Here are some highlights, with a few of our own annotations. Innovation

I am uniquely qualified to lead our nation during this technological revolution. While in the Navy, I depended upon the technologies and information provided by our nation’s scientists and engineers with during [sic] each mission. [Hmm. So if I'm in the Navy, and I ride on a submarine, I'm thus qualified to run all military weapons development?]I am the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The Committee plays a major role in the development of technology policy, specifically any legislation affecting communications services, the Internet, cable television and other technologies. [

As President, I will --- • Focus on addressing national needs to make the United States a leader in developing, deploying, and exporting new technologies; • Utilize the nation’s science and technology infrastructure to develop a framework for economic growth both domestically and globally; • Appoint a Science and Technology Advisor within the White House to ensure that the role of science and technology in policies is fully recognized and leveraged, that policies will be based upon sound science, and that the scientific integrity of federal research is restored; • Eliminate wasteful earmarks in order to allocate funds for science and technology investments; [

Which adds additional irony to McCain's inability to surf the Web

.] Under my guiding hand, Congress developed a wireless spectrum policy that spurred the rapid rise of mobile phones and Wi-Fi technology that enables Americans to surf the web while sitting at a coffee shop, airport lounge, or public park.

We won't even touch this one

.]

Climate Change

To dramatically reduce carbon emissions, I will institute a new cap-and-trade system that over time will change the dynamic of our energy economy. By the year 2012, we will seek a return to 2005 levels of emissions, by 2020, a return to 1990 levels, and so on until we have achieved at least a reduction of sixty percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. [James Hansen may have something to say about this one.]

I have long supported CAFE standards - the mileage requirements that automobile manufacturers' cars must meet. Some carmakers ignore these standards, pay a small financial penalty, and add it to the price of their cars. But I believe that the penalties for not following these standards must be effective enough to compel all carmakers to promote the development of fuel-efficient vehicles. I will strengthen the penalties for violating CAFE standards, and make certain they are effectively enforced. [

To bolster research efforts, government must do more by opening new paths of invention and ingenuity. A McCain administration would establish a permanent research and development tax credit equal to ten percent of wages spent on R&D, to open the door to a new generation of environmental entrepreneurs. [

Which isn't the same as raising them

.]

Excellent! Now we're getting somewhere

.] I am also committed to investing two billion dollars every year for the next 15 years on clean coal technologies, to unlock the potential of America's oldest and most abundant resource. [Hansen would approve.]

Energy

As President, I will put the country on track to building 45 new reactors by 2030 so that we can meet our growing energy demand and reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. Nuclear power is a proven, domestic, zero-emission source of energy [sort of] and it is time to recommit to advancing our use of nuclear energy. The U.S. has not started construction on a new nuclear power plant in over 30 years. [

Yeah well there was the matter of a little P.R. problem.

] Currently, nuclear power provides 20 percent of our overall energy portfolio. Other countries such as China, India and Russia are looking to increase the role of nuclear power in their energy portfolio and the U.S. should not just look to maintain, but increase its own use. In the progress of other alternative energy sources -- such as wind, solar, geothermal, tide, and hydroelectric --government must be an ally but not an arbiter. In less than a generation, wind power alone could account for a fifth or more of all our electricity. And just in recent memory, solar energy has gone from a novelty to a fast-growing industry. I've voted against the current patchwork of tax credits for renewable power because they were temporary, and often the result of who had the best lobbyist instead of who had the best ideas. [

Temporary is better than nonexistent

.]

Education

Less than 20 percent of our undergraduate students obtaining degrees in math or science, and the number of computer science majors have fallen by half over the last eight years. America must address these trends in education and training if it hopes to compete successfully. [Apparently, science is above proofreading for typos on McCain's education list.]

But I believe that education is an ongoing process. Thus our nation’s education system should not only focus on graduating new students; we must also help re-train displaced workers as they prepare for the rapidly evolving economy. [

We must fill the pipeline to our colleges and universities with students prepared for the rigors of advanced engineering, math, science and technology degrees. We must move aggressively to provide opportunities from elementary school on, for students to explore the sciences through laboratory experimentation, science fairs and competitions. We must bring private corporations more directly into the process, leveraging their creativity, and experience to identify and maximize the potential of students who are interested and have the unique potential to excel in math and science. [

Does that include training for former investment bankers?

]

Yes, because encouraging close relationships between private corporations and scientific research always yields such positiveresults

.]

Pandemics & Biosecurity

When faced with a global pandemic, the United States must have in place and implement a layered strategy to save lives and protect the continuity of a functioning society. First, we must limit the spread of disease to the United States. Second, we must limit the spread of disease within the United States. This must be accomplished at the community level with strategies that have worked in past pandemics and can be adapted to a current crisis. Third, we must mitigate symptoms of the disease and minimize suffering and death with effective treatments and countermeasures. And fourth, we must maintain a functioning economy, public service sector and community. The strategy requires a focus on: preparedness (the activities that should be undertaken before a pandemic to ensure preparedness); communication (the roles and responsibilities of all levels of government and segments of society); surveillance and detection (both domestic and international systems that provide continuous situational awareness to ensure the earliest warning possible to protect the population); and response and containment (actions to limit the spread of the outbreak and to mitigate the health, social and economic impacts of a pandemic. [

Yes, a strategy for disaster-preparedness! Like this one

!]

Genetics Research

Genetic research holds great promise, but also demands great responsibility. We stand on the threshold of life-changing breakthroughs shepherded by the human genome project. I share in the wonder that unlocking the human genetic code affords and the life-changing treatments and therapies it could allow. But this discovery should inspire restraint to equal to its promise to ensure nascent discoveries are not abused. [Translation: I'll do whatever my party tells me on this one.] As genetic research becomes increasingly deployed, the need to ensure privacy of human records will become all the more essential, as will be the rigor to ensure there is no genetic discrimination. [

We already took care of that, finally

.] The scientific potential and ethical issues associated with genetics are important and complex enough that I will actively seek out the wise counsel of experts about how to ensure that we are best serving the needs of the American people. [

If you're looking, we know a few that could help!

]

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