Mixing science, politics can result in bad policy

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: November 28, 2012
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“SCIENCE is politics.”

Those are the words of Dr. Claude Wischik, who believes Alzheimer's disease is caused by buildup of tau protein on the brain. A competing theory focuses on a different protein, beta amyloid. Those exploring beta amyloid currently get more funding.

Whether Wischik or his critics are right may not be known for years. But Wischik's words, cited by The Wall Street Journal, are worth keeping in mind. Science doesn't exist independent of political considerations, even in its most basic research applications. When science is used to actively foster a political agenda, things can get even worse.

Currently, environmentalists are pushing for tax policies to discourage the use of fossil fuels, citing the “science” of global warming. President Barack Obama has declared himself “a firm believer” in manmade climate change generated by carbon emissions. However, proposed tax-based solutions would be decidedly negative for the average family, while doing little to benefit the environment. Some want a carbon tax (a fee on greenhouse-gas emissions) while others prefer a “cap-and-trade” system requiring producers to purchase an allowance to emit certain greenhouse gases.

The Heritage Foundation notes 9 million Americans work in the oil and natural gas industry; another 550,000 work in coal mining. In Oklahoma, about 3.38 percent of state jobs in October were in mining and logging, which includes oilfield work. A 2009 Congressional Budget Office report predicted a cap-and-trade system would reduce national gross domestic product growth by as much as 3.4 percent and that oil-and-gas extraction industries “would probably suffer significant employment losses over time.”

Consumers also would feel the direct impact through higher prices for energy and indirect impact through higher prices for goods and services. The CBO predicted compliance costs of a cap-and-trade system would result in lost income for all earners, particularly the low income, unless offsetting government subsidies were provided.

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