The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is notorious for being rather, well, anti-science. This reputation was heavily-publicized last Summer when one of the committee’s members, Todd Akin, infamously commented that women rarely get pregnant from “legitimate rape,” a statement that is as factually inaccurate as it is insensitive.
But Anatomy 101 isn’t the only class many of the committee members seem to have skipped. Last August, Wired wrote a post compiling a number of widely-criticized statements made by its members. It includes committee chair Ralph Hall’s (R-Texas) dismissal of climate science because he doesn’t think “we can control what God controls.” Fellow committee member Dana Rohrbacher (R-California) does think humans can reduce greenhouse gases, he just thinks the way to do it is by cutting down trees. Meanwhile, Paul Broun (R-Georgia) is given to fits of rhetoric when asked about science and nutrition, calling the CDC’s recommendation to eat more fruits and vegetables “socialism of the highest order” and calling evolution and the Big Bang theory “lies from the pit of Hell.”
In this year’s elections, seven House Science Committee members were defeated and three more are retiring. But will these roster changes make the committee any more sympathetic to the needs of scientists and entrepreneurs working in clean tech?
Not necessarily. First off, Hall, Rohrbacher, and Broun all won reelection. And then let’s take a look at who was voted out: first, there’s Maryland Republican Roscoe Bartlett. While also guilty of boneheaded statements about rape and pregnancy, Bartlett supported an “international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases.” Another ousted member, Illinois Republican Judy Biggert, has said, “The science behind climate change is sound.” It should be noted that Bartlett and Biggert both voted to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. But compared to some of their Republican colleagues on the committee who refuse to listen to arguments supporting anthropogenic climate change, or invent their own counter-arguments out of thin air, Bartlett and Biggert are practically climate hawks.
That said, yesterday’s purge, along with primary elections earlier this year, did oust some members accused of being anti-science. Akin of course is out, but so are Sandy Adams (R-Florida) who voted to let teachers teach theories that contradict the theory of evolution, Benjamin Quayle (R-Arizona) who said he doesn’t believe in manmade global warming, and Chip Cravaack (R-Minnesota) who earlier this year introduced legislation to cut off funding to climate change education. And it’s not limited to Republicans either: Jerry Costello (D-Illinois) is retiring from Congress and leaving the committee after becoming one of only a handful of Democrats who voted to approve the Stop the War on Coal Act,
But the committee is still full of Congressmen that have been criticized for anti-science rhetoric and voting records, from the trio of Hall, Rorhbacher, and Broun to others like Jim Sensenbrenner, Mo Brooks, and Dan Benishek. Many (including us) wrote that this election was a victory for science and tech, particularly clean tech. But with a committee that remains filled with Congressmen who think the climate consequences of coal production are nothing to worry about, it’s hard to imagine them shaping policies, advocating for tax credits, and introducing legislation that help wind and solar startups.