A Pittance for Research

| Wed Feb. 1, 2006 2:39 PM EST

In his State of the Union last night, the president got all environmental on us and proposed a few million dollars in subsidies for clean-energy research. About $264 million, according to David Roberts of Grist—not nothing, but a pittance compared to the billions of dollars in subsidies that Congress is giving oil and gas companies to drill and explore the earth last year. (In a year that Exxon earned a record $36 billion in profit, no less.) Oh, and that also comes after last year, during which funding for carbon-free energy sources was cut 3.6 percent.

Sorry to get critical—yes, yes, the president was making a baby step towards some sort of decent goal for once in his life—but this really won't cut it. Dramatic climate change is on the way, and little half-gestures won't help change course. Meanwhile, the president's proposal to increase spending on federal research and development by an additional $6 billion was a good call, and genuinely needed—most of this basic research is responsible for some of the major inventions of our time, including a variety of breakthrough drugs and of course the internet, and the U.S. is falling behind other countries on this front—but the betting line is that the Republican-controlled Congress won't actually approve anywhere near that much. Oh well, I'm sure it made for a good applause line, and that's all that counts, right?