Blue Science and Red Science

Examining the Democratic and Republican platforms on stem cells, space, and more

According to Nobel Prize–winning economist Robert Solow, technological progress has been responsible for about half of U.S. economic growth since the end of World War II. Politicians of all stripes recognize the importance of science and technology to our future well-being. So what do the Democratic and Republican party platforms have to say about science and technology policy? Below are a few highlights.

Stem cells. President George W. Bush restricted federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to work done with cell lines derived before August 2001. In its 2008 platform, the Democratic Party promised to “lift the current Administration’s ban on using federal funding for embryonic stem cells.” The 2012 platform notes that Obama “issued an executive order repealing the restrictions on embryonic stem cell research” in March 2009. 

The 2012 Republican platform calls for “expanded support for the stem-cell research that now offers the greatest hope for many afflictions—with adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood, and cells reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells—without the destruction of embryonic human life.” The platform is silent on the question of privately funded research on embryonic stem cell research, but it does advocate a “ban on human cloning and on the creation of or experimentation on human embryos.”

Because in vitro fertilization (IVF) often involves the creation of multiple embryos, some of which are discarded, such a ban probably would prohibit standard IVF techniques that have resulted in the births of 5 million babies worldwide since 1979. Those babies include at least three of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s grandchildren.

Energy. Both the Democrats and the Republicans favor “energy independence” and an “all-of-the-above” energy policy. Back in 2008, however, the Democrats declared that “we know we can’t drill our way to energy independence.” Instead the 2008 platform promised to “fast-track investment of billions of dollars over the next ten years to establish a green energy sector.”

President Obama proudly pointed out in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention that renewable energy generation has doubled under his administration. Furthermore, the U.S. has cut its oil imports by 1 million barrels per day while opening up “millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last three years, and we’ll open more.” Evidently the 2008 platform was wrong: We can “drill our way” to energy independence. 

The amount of power produced by wind turbines has indeed doubled since Obama took office, from 52,000 gigawatt-hours in 2009 to 139,000 gigawatt-hours over the last 12 months. Net solar power generation rose to 2,400 gigawatt-hours from 900 gigawatt-hours in 2009. Since Americans consume 4 million gigawatt-hours of electricity each year, that means wind power contributed 3.5 percent and solar power less than 0.1 percent of the total.

What about Obama’s claim to have opened up millions of acres to hydrocarbon exploration? In its first three years, according to the Bureau of Land Management, the Bush administration leased 8.8 million acres for oil exploration and production, compared to 5.3 million for the first three years of the Obama administration. The Clinton administration leased 11.4 million acres in its first three years.

The Bush administration saw 9,276 new wells drilled in its first three years, compared to the 9,693 under the Obama administration. But 15,095 new wells began production as oil prices rose during the last three years of the Bush administration.

Regarding nuclear power, in 2010 the Obama administration proposed tripling federal loan guarantees for building new plants, from the Bush administration’s $18 billion to $54 billion.

 “Unlike the current Administration,” the 2012 GOP platform declares, “we will not pick winners and losers in the energy marketplace. Instead, we will let the free market and the public’s preferences determine the industry outcomes.” Regarding renewable sources of energy, the platform states, “The taxpayers should not serve as venture capitalists for risky endeavors.”

So far, so good. But then the GOP platform notes that no new nuclear plants have been built in 30 years and calls for “timely processing of new reactor applications currently pending at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” Does this mean nuclear power is a “winner”? There is not a word about why taxpayers should serve as nuclear power venture capitalists, funding billions in federal loan guarantees. If solar socialism is bad, why is nuclear socialism OK?

Space exploration. Neither party has much love for government space exploration anymore. The 2008 Democratic platform promised to “invest in a strong and inspirational vision for space exploration.” Similarly, the 2012 Republican platform notes that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has “inspired generations of Americans.” Since 2009 the NASA budget has fallen in constant-dollar terms by about 7 percent. To its credit, the Obama administration has focused more on privatizing and commercializing manned space travel, a fact the Republicans ignore. 

Climate change. The 2008 Democratic platform announced, “We will lead to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change.” The Democrats also promised to “implement a market-based cap and trade system to reduce carbon emissions.” That didn’t happen. The 2008 promise to enact a cap-and-trade carbon rationing scheme died in the U.S. Senate in 2010.

Back in 2008, the Democratic platform declared that addressing climate change must include “binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions” by countries such as China and India. The utter failure of negotiations at three subsequent United Nations climate change conferences has shown the Obama administration that achieving such commitments is much easier said than done. 

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  • rts||

    Politicians of both parties manage to find science that conveniently supports the policies they already favor.

    No shit?

  • C. Anacreon||

    Today's Doonesbury had a parade of scientists celebrating Obama's win, since all science would have been replaced by religious dogma had Romney won.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Conservatives are anti-science.

    Romney? Who knows? He lacks any principle at all.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Shreek, you really are an idiot. Worshipping the nice men in the white lab coats isn't pro-science. It's just replacing one religious dogma with another.

  • T o n y||

    Much more rational to pick and choose which science to believe in depending on your political beliefs.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Palin's Buttwipe,

    Conservatives are anti-science.


    largess =/= pro-science

    Not wanting tax dollars to fund pet projects =/= anti-science.

  • T o n y||

    Like nuclear?

  • Caleb Turberville||

    OT: It's November 22. I once knew a guy who not only believed the assassination conspiracy theories, but ALL of the assassination conspiracy theories: Lee Harvey Oswald, LBJ, the Soviets, and the Klan conspired and shots were fired from every possible angle in Dealey Plaza.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    I have a friend who thinks Oliver Stone's "JFK" was the correct theory.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    The only conspirator I could possible buy is Jack Ruby. It's just my own personal feeling, but I don't his stated motivation for killing Oswald. But that's about it for me.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Though, his phenmetrazine addiction might have been a contributing factor as well.

  • Robert Jordan||

    No, no, no. It was CIA-directed space alien cuban sasquatches from the Bermuda triangle, turned by KGB and funded by the mafia.

  • RickC||

    Isn't that one of Jesse Ventura's theories?

  • ||

    THE SCIENCE IS SETTLED! EXTERNALITIES!

  • UnionBuiltOhioRoads||

    How is George W's restrictions on Federal Stem funding equate to "banning" it?

    This is a libertarian site, right?

  • ||

    Uh, the article never says it banned all stem cell research. Just federal funding for it. Reading comprehension, how does it work?

  • Fluhdoten1||

    banning is muddy language for that purpose.

    unfunded is superior in every way.

  • Brutus||

    Still, getting rid of federal subsidies would seem to conform to libertarian principles.

  • Drake||

    Apparently Bush got rid of federal giveaways for the wrong reasons.

  • SIV||

    This is a libertarian site, right?

    lol

    New here?

  • UnionBuiltOhioRoads||

    Ohhh trust me, Ive been here awhile. I actually rarely ever read the articles anymore, I just skip to the comments....which are almost always more intelligent and funny.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Ugh...I remember arguing with someone at the time that claimed he was a libertarian because he opposed Bush's ban on stem cell funding. I remember the cognitive dissonance when I tried to explain that federal research funding is hardly libertarian.

  • ||

    According to Nobel Prize–winning economist Robert Solow, technological progress has been responsible for about half of U.S. economic growth since the end of World War II.

    I really can't take such credentials seriously after Krugman got the award (and Yassar Arafat and Obama got the Peace award). Tell me something that might make me believe he might be competent and didn't just pull that number out of his ass.

  • Adam||

    However he won it for work he did in the 50's and 60's....namely for the "Solow Model of Economic Growth", and a lot of work he did together with Paul Samuelson....so of course, we're talking about hard-core Keynesians.

    The difference is that the quote above directly relates to the work for which he won the award. Krugman is usually quoted for his political commentary, not for the work for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Believe me, they're two very different animals. Although I'm definitely not a Keynesian (but an Austrian for the most part), I have to admit that he did some interesting work in the 80's and early 90's...before setting off on his current campaign of political hackery.

  • robc||

    Krugman is the Nate Silver of economics. Good work in one area and inexplicably leverages it to work in politics instead.

  • Russell||

    So much for mapping Red and Blue state engineering and biotech views , Ron.

    Now please draw the continental divide on chemistry, physics, and the age of the Earth.

  • Russell||

    And don't forget the demographic divideon rewriting the weather.

  • Almanian.||

    She blinded me with science. If you know what I'm saying.

  • ||

    It feels almost like I just read something very similar to this a couple months ago...

    http://reason.com/archives/201.....and-techno

    http://reason.com/archives/201.....nd-technol

  • American||

    "After analyzing both the Democratic and Republican Party platforms, it’s evident that science is secondary to politics. Politicians of both parties manage to find science that conveniently supports the policies they already favor."
    And this article really supports that statement. In fact there was no discussion of science at all. Just some talk about whether the government should fund stem cell research, what Obongo said about drilling, and, ya, that's about it. Short article. How about some real discussion of the probelms facing our nation. How about talking about evolution, intelligence, biology and personal behavior, population growth, and why excatly the nation's children are doing so pitfully bad at math and science. And how about a piece of "blue science." How about showing Steven Jay Gould or the Fracking wierdos. Or show the "red science," all these climate change deniers.

  • Lorenzo||

    Inasmuch as stats are science, liberals steadfastly cling to two anti-science premises, despite decades of research and decades of real world results: gun control makes people safer and spending increases educational outcomes. Not only can most liberals and many conservatives not be convinced on this matter, they can't even be budged.

  • Rick Santorum||

    B-b-but those Rethuglicans and CREATIONISM!

  • SDN||

    Politicians and people of bothall parties manage to find science that conveniently supports the policies they already favor.

    FTFY. "Libertarians" are no different than the rest. Otherwise, we wouldn't see any columns in favor of open borders, because only a moron thinks we are in either an economic or demographic situation where that policy makes sense. This is not the 1900s where large amounts of low-skill labor is needed, nor is there anyplace for it to live.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: SDN,

    "Libertarians" are no different than the rest. Otherwise, we wouldn't see any columns in favor of open borders,


    The argument for open borders is a moral one, SDN, not a scientific one. The argument for freedom of movement stems from natural rights, SDN, not from empirical science.

    This is not the 1900s where large amounts of low-skill labor is needed[...]


    What establishes how much labor is needed is the market, SDN, not the year. And the market clearly indicated it still needs low-cost labor.

  • OldMexican||

    Climate change. The 2008 Democratic platform announced, "We will lead to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change."


    "We will spit in the eye of God! Nothing bad can come from that, could it?"

    But even if the GOP were to acknowledge that man-made warming is occurring, that would not commit the party to implementing draconian carbon rationing policies.


    And being against economy-killing and freedom-stripping policies makes one anti-science... how?

  • OldMexican||

    Space exploration. Neither party has much love for government space exploration anymore.


    That doesn't make any of them particularly pro- or anti-science, just reluctant to spend more money on it.

    As I am.

  • epsilon given||

    I'm not opposed to spending money on space exploration. I'm just opposed to the Government doing it!

  • Robert Jordan||

    This article is backwards.

    How about the political affiliations of people who call themselves scientists?

    How about the problems with pal-review, living in isolated bubbles of group-think, the presentation of models as "evidence", and the practice of determining a conclusion and then carefully crafting the research to back it up?

  • Robert Jordan||

    Quiz:

    1. A significant portion of climate change is caused by the activities of Man? a.) true, b.) false

    2. The gas that makes up the greatest proportion of the atmosphere of Earth is ________________.

    3. The difference between a covalent bond and an ionic bond is _______________.

    4. The term "atomic number" refers to ____________________.

    5. When a quantity of water freezes, it's volume ______________ because ___________________.

    6. If you answered "true" to question 1, did you know the answers to questions 2-5, or did you have to look them up?

  • newshutz||

    I know the answers to 2-5.

    I also know that there is no correct answer to question 1, because climate science is still in its infancy, and its models cannot predict the climate, yet.

    For instance, there currently is no understanding of why there has been no global warming the past 10+ years, though the models predicted warming.

  • Robert Jordan||

    Quite right. Just after submitting the comment I thought, "Wait...there should be a choice c.) I don't know."

    I was just trying to illustrate that most people who go about pontificating on AGW are unlikely to have arrived at their conclusions through science.

    The reason I only referred to those who would answer false to the first question is that it is the adherents to AGW "theories" who demand that the rest of us pay carbon taxes, ride bicycles, live in a tepee, and so forth. Therefore, I put the onus on the AGW crowd to prove their point or else leave the rest of us alone.

  • T o n y||

    No, though it's just as easy to find the answer to #1 by looking it up as the rest.

  • epsilon given||

    The point being made, though, is that if you have just been exposed enough science that you could answer those questions.

    I answer "likely false" on the first, but I have no trouble answering the other four questions.

  • T o n y||

    There is absolutely no empirical reason to think that is the answer to #1. The only reason to think that is political.

  • Robert Jordan||

    I disagree. The reason to answer false to question #1 is to refer to the lack of convincing empirical evidence.

    Note that it is not sufficient to demonstrate that warming has occurred over such and such period of years. What is required is proof that a significant portion of such warming has been caused by human activity.

    In the absence of convincing empirical evidence for MAN-MADE global warming, the best available choice is "false". However, if there were a choice of "I do not know" then that would be best.

    When it comes to policy-making, however, I put "I don't know" in the same bucket as "false" because we shouldn't be passing laws restricting people's freedom if we don't have convincing proof of sufficient cause to put such restrictions in place.

  • T o n y||

    What is required is proof that a significant portion of such warming has been caused by human activity.

    Required for what? Assigning moral blame? What does that have to do with solving the problem?

    And you're still wrong about what current science says on the question. All you have to do is consult the same reliable sources you consult for any other scientific information.

  • GregQ||

    "But even if the GOP were to acknowledge that man-made warming is occurring"

    Why would the GOP want to be so pig-ignorantly stupid as to do that?

    The world warmed a lot more between 1900 and 1950 than it has from 1950 to the present. But CO2 in the atmosphere was much higher in the 1950s to now, than it was from 1900 - 1950.

    According the the British Met Office, world temperate has been flat over the last 16 years. So much for all that human caused warming.

    1: The "climate science" field is a pathetic joke, when standard operating procedures that would rightfully be labeled fraudulent in any other scientific field.

    2: To the best of our ability to tell, world temperatures are not behaving in a way consistent with the idea that the temperature is changing because of human activity, rather than because of normal temperature variation.

    3: When you babble about "climate change" (here's a hint: the climate changes all the time), all you do is demonstrate that you are a chump, and Reason's "science" coverage isn't worth a damn. The fantasy you're subscribing to is "human caused (anthropogenic) global warming". It's proponents have stopped calling it that because of the 16 year lack of any actual global warming. If you weren't a chump, you'd have noticed that, and stopped buying their scam.

    Thanks for that warning that your coverage isn't worth anything.

  • bobby oshea||

    "So far, so good. But then the GOP platform notes that no new nuclear plants have been built in 30 years and calls for “timely processing of new reactor applications currently pending at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” Does this mean nuclear power is a “winner”? There is not a word about why taxpayers should serve as nuclear power venture capitalists, funding billions in federal loan guarantees. If solar socialism is bad, why is nuclear socialism OK?"

    this paragraph makes no sense. it appears to be a lame attempt at "balance" within the article.

  • Robert||

    That stood out to me as well. Was something cut for space that would've had this make sense had it been left in? Did the platform say the taxpayers should fun billions in federal loan guarantees?

  • Nuked||

    I'm quite sure the Republican's were referring to optimizing the NRC from its slug like speeds and incredibly inefficient means of licensing nuclear reactors.

    They did not mention anything regarding loan guarantees. The loans are not the limiting factor, the NRC taking a decade to license a plant to be built is the problem and also why nobody wants to invest in nuclear power (even though nuclear power has proven to be a good investment when the plant is built).

  • sohbet||

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  • cinsel chat||

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