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President-elect Barack Obama named physicist John Holdren assistant to the president and director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy on Saturday. Commonly referred to as the presidential science adviser, the position will give Holdren influence over budget allocations for nanotechnology, clean energy, space exploration, […]

President-elect Barack Obama named physicist John Holdren assistant to the president and director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy on Saturday. Commonly referred to as the presidential science adviser, the position will give Holdren influence over budget allocations for nanotechnology, clean energy, space exploration, climate research and all other federal science and technology initiatives, assuming the Senate confirms him in January.

A former chairman and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Holdren gave a speech to fellow scientists earlier this year that offers a glimpse of the perspective he might lend the incoming administration (full text available here). His thoughts:

On the relationship between energy, the economy and the environment: Like a bad love triangle.

The study of these environmental impacts of energy has been a major preoccupation of mine for nearly four decades. I have concluded from this study that energy is the hardest part of the environment problem; environment is the hardest part of the energy problem; and resolving the energy-economy-environment dilemma is the hardest part of the challenge of sustainable well-being for industrial and developing countries alike.

On technology priorities: Clean energy. Now. Try everything.

The improved technologies we should be pursuing, for help not only with the energy-climate challenge but also with other aspects of the energy-economy-environment dilemma, are of many kinds: improved batteries for plug-in hybrid vehicles; cheaper photovoltaic cells; improved coal-gasification technologies to make electricity and hydrogen while capturing CO2; new processes for producing hydrogen from water using solar energy; better means of hydrogen storage; cheaper, more durable, more efficient fuel cells; biofuel options that do not compete with food production or drive deforestation; advanced fission reactors with proliferation-resistant fuel cycles and increased robustness against malfunction and malfeasance; fusion; more attractive and efficient public transportation options; and a range of potential advances in materials science, biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, and process engineering that could drastically reduce the energy and resource requirements of manufacturing and food production.

On biofuels and technology’s role in the food-fuel conflict: Go, go gadget!

We need more effective use of the capabilities provided by satellite imagery and other remote sensing, and by GIS, both for conducting such studies [of projected land requirements for food, animal feed, fiber, biofuels, and infrastructure] and for conveying the results to publics and decision-makers in forms they will understand and use. And, not least, we need technologies for extracting food, fiber, and fuel from agricultural and forest ecosystems in ways less disruptive of the other services those systems provide than the technologies typically used today.

  1. [...] reported by our friends at the All Points Blog Earth2Tech offers this quote (about the food/fuel conflict) from a speech he gave earlier in the week. Perhaps [...]

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  2. [...] President-elect Barack Obama named physicist John Holdren assistant to the president and director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy on Saturday. Commonly referred to as the presidential science adviser, the position will give Holdren influence over budget allocations for nanotechnology, clean energy, space exploration, climate research and all other federal science and technology initiatives, assuming the Senate confirms him in January. (link) [...]

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  3. These folks are the climate deniers! Holdren and his government control freak bunch. The deny the historical record which shows CO2 increases follow temperature increases, not precede them. And the deny that the earth has been COOLING for ten years. What is really behind this “man’s failt” climate baloney? I think it is one or more of these six things:

    1) control of world’s energy resources without immediate overt military action
    2) attempt to leverage the US into a “climate control technology leader”
    3) prevent developing nations from developing very fast (inexpensive electricity is the key)
    4) a clever (like OPEC) way to increase the size and power of governments (the natural tendency to return to pre-democratic, free enterprise styles which are relatively new – 232 years old).
    5) cover for some larger political, military, geologic or terrestrial indication or threat the public can’t handle.
    6) A precursor to expressing the (eventual or current) need to arrive at a sustainable human population globally and for each region (continent, biome, etc.).

    I am most definitely a climate denier as Holdren defines it, and am 100% confident man made CO2 today is not a climate driver. Even if it is, then transcontinental transport of goods should be the first target. Look what sea freighters put into the air!

    and even if it is (which it isn’t) the WINDMILLS are about the WORST investment we could make to reduce CO2! My word, they require either massive scale energy storage (dangerous and not even invented yet) or much larger spinning reserves to kick in when weather calms. They produce so little when we need the most electricity it is pitiful.

    Regionalization – proximity of manufacturing and agriculture production to markets, along with an investment in non-fossil mass transit and controlling air and sea traffic make way more sense than windmills!

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