Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 4, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

SWITCHGRASS FOLLOWUP....So where did the president's "switchgrass" reference in Tuesday's State of the Union address come from? David Roberts at Grist writes:

You may be interested in what David Bransby, professor of energy crops at Auburn University, said Wednesday on NPR's All Things Considered. He has called and emailed regularly with the office of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). One of the last emails claimed, in Bransby's words, that switchgrass "was a last minute inclusion in the speech, and it was Senator Sessions that helped get it into there." Sessions' spokesflack later confirmed that Sessions had a heart-to-heart with Al Hubbard, the chairman of Bush's National Economic Council, last Friday.

There you have it. Apparently the path was Sessions to Hubbard to Bush. Too bad there were no actual scientists involved.

Kevin Drum 11:21 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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Comments

I thought "switchgrass" was what Laura Bush used to do to get more money from her buyers.

Posted by: Frank Freak on February 4, 2006 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

What about Professor Bransby?

Posted by: Andy on February 4, 2006 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

> Too bad there were no actual
> scientists involved.

And that would have made exactly what difference?

Posted by: alan on February 4, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

We don't need your stinkin' science! Jeebus -- just say what sounds good, let the press dutifully parrot, and wait for the rapture!

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on February 4, 2006 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe it came from CAP...www.americanprogress.org/rgg

Posted by: mb on February 4, 2006 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

This episode underlines why it remains important for scientists to keep open lines of communication with the Republican congresspeople and their staffs. Over the past five years it has been frustrating for scientists to be painted as "liberal" simply because they are reality-based, and to have Repub pundits constantly searching their public statements for traces of the personal profit motive. Nevertheless, the continued engagement of the scientific community is critical. The switchgrass example illustrates how scientists in red states might be more influential than their brethren in blue states, and in ways that are unpredictable.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 4, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Or you could have read my 8:01 AM comment on your previous post.

Posted by: Keith G on February 4, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Keith G,

Fine work, but Martin also posted at 11:08 PM the night before.

Posted by: stupid git on February 4, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Scientists ?

Like the Mullahs in Iran, the Bushies have no need for scientists. You never know when one of them might mention that the earth is more than a thousand years old.
.

Posted by: VJ on February 4, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Science

actually the recent issue of Science, jan 27 2005, has an editorial and maybe 2 reports that mention switch grass.

I thought either these were timed to come out with around the time of the SOTU or, the Bush team lifted the reference from them.

Posted by: MonkeyBoy on February 4, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Is it possible that switchgrass is something grown commercially in Alabama? Or could be grown, creating a new agricultural subsidy that would last like forever?

/snark

Posted by: JimPortlandOR on February 4, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

For the lazy, here is the Science Editorial, and abstracts of the two reports.

Posted by: MonkeyBoy on February 4, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

And that would have made exactly what difference?

Do I really need to explain why scientists should be consulted on technology issues? If you were in the hospital would you like the nurse to call up Jeff Sessions to see whether he recommends an MRI or a pint of Magosteen juice?

Posted by: UCS on February 4, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, what about Professor Bransby, Kevin? Is a professor of energy crops (?) not a scientist? Why don't you include him in the path?

Posted by: bam on February 4, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK


Is it possible that switchgrass is something grown commercially in Alabama? Or could be grown, creating a new agricultural subsidy that would last like forever?

Funny you should ask
http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/papers/bioen98/bransby1.html

Posted by: Martin on February 4, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

The question isn't whether there is science behind the switchgrass ethanol, it's whether Bush consults scientists about which technological solution the country should be putting money into.

All evidence points to Bush not trusting the National Academy, National Science Foundation, etc. to have unbiased and informed opinions about where science and technology funding (in this case related to energy) should go. With Bush, it still appears that all ideas have to be filtered through corporate or conservative interest groups.

Peer reviewed funding allocation makes a lot more sense then a top down approach dictating allocation of research funds to particular congressional districts.

Posted by: sk1llz on February 4, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

too bad there is no actual government in the U.S.A.
LOCOWEED

Posted by: LOCOWEED on February 4, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

On this week's ExxonMobil Kabuki Theater: Leaves of SwitchGrass...

- WATCH as yet another politician pays lip service to reducing oil dependency because it tracks well with voters!
- WONDER at the ongoing lack of political and corporate will necessary to seriously reduce oil consumption!
- SEE commentators, academics, and self-styled 'experts' chase their own tails around as they debate the merits of this year's Hot New Alternative Source of Energy!
- MARVEL at the record profits made by Big Oil while ordinary people have to choose between heat, food, or medicine!

Looks like y'all found something that's all nice and bright and shiny...again. Don't get too excited until we see something more than Dubya setting the stage for more handouts of your tax dollars to energy companies for 'research'.

Posted by: grape_crush on February 4, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

grape_crush

Absolutely outstanding post. Wonderful movie trailer. I can almost hear see 1950s scifi imagery. ROTFLMAO.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 4, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Exxon/Mobil Kabuki theatre ; that's drink coffee through your nose territory.
Tax dollars for energy research. Yep, that would be next : work as well as fibreoptic allowances to phone providers.
www.vidirbiomass.com burn round strawbales www.heatmasterss.com/howit works 5,000-20,000 sq.ft. multifuel outdoor furnaces www.deckerbrand.com multifuel boilers/heat exchangers
These are advertisers in www.thebook.bz (Prairie Farmers Catalogue)

Posted by: opit on February 4, 2006 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Ron Byers...so I'm forgiven for the earlier Child Support thread?

Posted by: grape_crush on February 4, 2006 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Solar cells and wind turbines produce MUCH more energy than biomass ever will. Wind turbines produce 19% of Danish electricity. No greenhouse gases or pollution. The wind will blow and the sun will shine a long time after we run out of fossil fuels and uranium ore. Use what easy fossil energy you have left to build a wind and solar economy.

"An extremely low fraction of the sunlight
reaching America is captured by plants. On
average the sunlight captured by plants is
only about 0.1%, with corn providing 0.25%.
These low values are in contrast to photovoltaics
that capture from 10% or more sunlight,
or approximately 100-fold more sunlight
than plant biomass." --David Pimentel and Tad W. Patzek, Natural Resources Research, Vol. 14, No. 1, March 2005

Honda, the Japanese car manufacturer, is investing a billion dollars in a solar cell fabrication plant.

Use pollution free solar cells and wind turbines to charge the batteries in your vehicle and power your home. No hydrocarbons are needed as fuel. It is MUCH more efficient than biomass.

There is a shortage of oil. Use what you have left to build a solar and wind driven society.

Posted by: deejaays on February 4, 2006 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

The Bushies do SOTU the same way they do everything, party frat-rat style. Just let all your "smart" friends throw it together for you. It only has to be good enough to get you through the day.

Only wimps do serious legitimate work.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on February 4, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

No, I think what Bush meant was that he was switching back to grass, because cocaine wouldn't let him get any sleep....

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on February 4, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Idiots.

All Idiots.

Switchgrass will grow well north of the Arctic circle. Anyone who disagrees will be nullified.

Posted by: T.D. Lysenko on February 4, 2006 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

"The question isn't whether there is science behind the switchgrass ethanol, it's whether Bush consults scientists about which technological solution the country should be putting money into."

No - the question is what changes we need to make in the way we do things in this country, because THERE ARE NO TECHNOLOGICAL SOLUTIONS that will allow us to live the idiotic way we live.

Posted by: T.D. on February 6, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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