Federal Dysfunction Continues to Underfund Science and Infrastructure

Tesla’s effort to commercialize a home battery system was a big news story last week. In contrast, the Republican-controlled House Science Committee’s reauthorization proposal for American science research received very little media attention. I link these two events because they represent the positive and negative trends influencing our transition to a sustainable, renewable economy. The home battery looks snazzy but is still too expensive and stores too little energy to be transformative. Still, Tesla’s innovation is a clear step in the right direction. Meanwhile, back in the nation’s capital, the House Republicans are attacking climate science and social science while keeping overall science funding flat. Even though our economy is growing, and increasingly based on human brainpower, the proportion of our GDP invested in science will continue to go down.

In what some might consider an unrelated development, the Wall Street Journal reported last week that investment in American port facilities was lagging behind demand. Inadequate port facilities were causing delays and increased shipping costs as our ports struggled to handle the volume generated by a new generation of super-sized freight ships. According to Wall Street Journal reporters Arian Campo-Flores and Cameron McWhirter:

The problem didn’t happen overnight. Investment by federal, state and local governments in U.S. ports and surrounding infrastructure–such as roads and rail lines–mostly dried up during the recession. And declining cargo volumes squeezed ports’ finances, limiting their ability to make significant investments in bigger cranes and other improvements… Now, ports are scrambling to catch up. They lag some foreign counterparts, which rely on unmanned cargo-handling machines to efficiently move, stack and retrieve containers.

The problem was even recognized by our dysfunctional Federal House of Representatives which last week passed a spending bill that would provide more funding for American ports. But as Robbie Whelan —> Read More