Presidential Nominees Answer Questions on Energy and Science

lesser of two

Most every candidate running for federal office is asked to respond to questions on their views and policies by interest groups. In this “post truth world” as the Economist refers to this election year, one of the most significant questions is what a candidates view is on science. There has been much hyperbole and pandering with little specifics and truth-telling. In an effort to investigate the answer to this question, a number of organizations have asked the Presidential nominees to answer a series of questions on the topic. Three of the most interesting are attached at the end of this blog. But the one that was most intriguing was their answers to one from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In it, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump asserted that the long-term security of fresh water could be “the most important issue” the nation will face and called for new investments to make desalination more affordable. It also released questionnaires filled out by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

In his answers, Trump reiterated his call for “energy independence,” but rather than focusing on oil, coal and natural gas production as he has done on the campaign trail, he called for “developing energy sources and power production that alleviates the need for dependence on fossil fuels.” But Trump remained skeptical of climate science. “There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of ‘climate change,'” Trump wrote. The Republican nominee offered new proposals in response to a question on how to ensure access to clean water for all Americans, including his support for investments in desalination and new water distribution infrastructure. “This may be the most important issue we face as a nation for the next generation,” Trump wrote. “Therefore, we must make the investment in our fresh water infrastructure to ensure access to affordable fresh water solutions for everyone.” “We must explore all options to include making desalinization more affordable and working to build the distribution infrastructure to bring this scarce resource to where it is needed for our citizens and those who produce the food of the world,” Trump wrote. “This must be a top priority for my administration.”

In response to the same question, Clinton pointed to lead contamination problems in Flint, Mich., and other states and vowed to invest in new water infrastructure. In addition, the Democrat proposed the creation of both a multiagency “Western Water Partnership” to improve water security through efficiency and infrastructure updates in the region and a new “Water Innovation Lab” to study efficiency, treatment and reuse of water. “The Lab will bring urban water managers, farmers and tribes together with engineers, entrepreneurs, conservationists and other stakeholders to develop practical and usable technologies and strategies that can be deployed by local water utilities, agricultural and industrial water users, and environmental restoration projects across the country,” Clinton wrote. Both candidates also broadly endorsed continued space exploration in response to a question about how the United States should pursue further exploration and Earth observation. But Clinton also emphasized the importance of supporting “achievable and affordable space initiatives.” “We must maintain our nation’s leadership in space with a program that balances science, technology and exploration; protect our security and the future of the planet through international collaboration and Earth systems monitoring; expand our robotic presence in the solar system; and maximize the impact of our R&D and other space program investments by promoting stronger coordination across federal agencies, and cooperation with industry,” Clinton wrote.

Trump asserted that a strong space program will generate “millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in investment” by encouraging children to pursue education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “The cascading effects of a vibrant space program are legion and can have a positive, constructive impact on the pride and direction of this country. Observation from space and exploring beyond our own space neighborhood should be priorities,” Trump said. He added that the United states should also seek “global partners” for its research. “Space is not the sole property of America. All humankind benefits from reaching into the stars,” Trump wrote. Interesting reading, one hopes this discussion comes out in the debates.