Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Earth Science President

Which Presidential candidate is best for Earth scientists? I’ll briefly have a look at some issues, then let y’all discuss. Please note that this is an autopost that I actually types up 2 weeks ago; so if something interesting happened since the Republican convention, it will not be considered.

Issue one- Resource extraction.
The Republicans seem to be considerably more gung-ho about exploring for and developing mineral and energy resources. The Democrats are considerably less enthusiastic about domestic fossil fuel production. In addition, Palin strongly supported infrastructure projects like pipelines which are crucial for developing small and medium sized deposits.
McCain wins this category.

Issue two- Regulation
Good regulation can actually benefit Earth scientists. While mining certainly employs geoscientists, reclamation, remediation, and water monitoring also provide good jobs for us, provided the regulatory environment creates a need for their skills. On the other hand, bad regulation can stop a project from progressing at all, or provoke a company into hiring lawyers to fight the regulations, instead of using earth scientists to follow them. I suspect that the Democrats would impose more stringent regulations, but I don’t see the evidence that their regulatory regime would be constroctive, rather than obstructive.
McCain wins again

Issue three- Education and research
Obama has promised substantial increases in federal funding for schools, college students, and research funding. While it is not clear if his research funding increases would proportionally increase Earth sciences relative to other fields, I suspect that there would be at least some improvement. In contract, the Republicans promise mostly to cut “wasteful” spending. In addition, the Republican VP is on record opposing evolution in schools. Since evolution is important keystone of geology, I can see a situation where the Republicans authorize drilling for everywhere, only to find that there are not enough qualified geologists around to site the holes.
Obama wins this one.

Issue four- Economy
The current high prices for most mineral resources is a direct consequence of rapid economic development in Asia, principally China and India. In recent months, there have been signs that the deteriorating US economic position is starting to effect growth all over the world. So strong US leadership is useful for maintaining worldwide growth to support prices. The Republican economic plan doesn’t seem particularly sound, as it continues expensive tax cuts and military programs without any obvious spending cuts of similar magnitude. While the democrats have a large number of spending proposals, I feel that their overall economic vision and ability is probably stronger.
Obama wins again.
If anyone can think of a tiebreaker issue, post it in comments. Please frame all comments as what is best for geology and its practitioners, however. While I acknowledge that people may vote for reasons unrelated to their profession, there are about a billion other blogs that are discussing that issue already.

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