Interplanetary exploration is certainly a noble endeavor, but when it comes to caring for a planet, politicians should begin by rooting for the home team. A recently introduced bill in the House of Representatives suggests a NASA budget that includes a multi-billion dollar space base on Mars, but cripples funding for renewable energy, and hands over cash to nuclear and fossil fuel special interests. Even more puzzling, the bill also slashes backing for climate change research.
While colonizing Mars is a dream and scientific achievement that many have pursued for years, Congress seems to think that technological advancement in one field must come at the expense of another. A bill proposed in the House of Representatives calls for a $200-500 billion colony on Mars while also getting rid of a number of renewable energy programs that cost less than $1billion. Along with de-funding climate change research, the “savings” achieved by switching priorities would then be passed along to those supporting dirty energy.
Although it seems as though even with restrictions, a Mars colony could be worth the mandates of Congress. However, the bill is far from a blank check, and money would be issued over a long stretch at the behest of lawmakers. Take into the account the constant turnover and the now fashionable trend to get absolutely nothing done in the name of political partisanship, and the journey to the stars seems more and more fraught with peril. So, in effect the legislation is asking NASA to ditch its other endeavors in favor of a giant, dangling carrot which could possibly be taken away at any moment. Asteroid research or global warming investigations could be put on the chopping block for the sake of visiting the Red Planet.
If this sort of political maneuvering sounds familiar, that may be due to the fact that this is the kind of lawmaking that has kept renewable energy development in the US behind the rest of the world. As Triple Pundit points out, the Federal Production Tax Credit for renewable energy has also boomed and busted at the desires of Congress, allowing the remainder of the globe to create robust markets and get a jump on cleaning up the mess caused by fossil fuels. Even though the Credit got extended for this year, it is still in danger of being axed. So, as long as the purse strings are in the hands of elected officials, it may be fair to assume that the US will be stuck on an an ever-warming planet, dreaming of the stars.
Via Triple Pundit
Images via NASA and Wikicommons user Bjoervedt.