On the Berkeley Energy Biosciences Institute
A few thoughts for today's Faculty Meeting:
I wish that we lived in a better world than this--one in which funding for research into absolutely crucial global priorities like the development of closed-carbon-cycle energy technologies by our government's Department of Energy. Public purposes should find public funding. It's bad economics and it's bad ethics for fundamental technological research that will be of value to everyone on the globe to come attached to intellectual property strings that restrict its distribution at all. And I do not know of any more important research for the U.S. government to fund and for Berkeley to conduct.
But American voters and Supreme Court Justices made choices back in 2000. And as a result of those choices, Department of Energy isn't funding our Energy Biosciences Institute. I find myself thinking of what the Green Party candidate for President said back before the election of 2000, approving of the possibility of the election of George W. Bush and of a Department of Energy that would not fund fundamental research into closed-carbon-cycle energy technologies: "A bumbling Texas governor [as president]," the Green Party's candidate said, "would galvanize the environmental community as never before.... The Sierra Club doubled its membership under James Watt."
So here we are. We are energized. But activist energization alone does not produce any Energy Biosciences Research. Are there any other suggestions for how to fund Energy Biosciences Research, other than to get money from BP?
Yes, there will be great tension between the interests of the University here and the interests of BP. But Berkeley hardly needs yet more bureaucracy. And we already have a Chancellor to manage these tensions. If we have no confidence in the Chancellor, we should get a new one. But I, at least, do have sufficient confidence that Chancellor Birgeneau is neither a tool of the oil companies nor a power-mad academic imperialist.