In the midst of an avalanche of political disruptions since President Donald Trump took office, one issue has received insufficient attention at Berkeley: the new Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. The former governor of Texas and Republican laughing stock now wields immense power over the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — a crown jewel of federal science research and a key institution at our university. Berkeley Lab is managed by the University of California, but its facility in the hills behind UC Berkeley campus are owned by the Department of Energy, and its research is conducted on the agency’s behalf. Hundreds of UC Berkeley professors and graduate students are employed by Berkeley Lab, working on broad scientific projects of every category ranging from nuclear weapons to renewable energy to cybersecurity to environmental economics.
Berkeley’s most brilliant scientific minds now effectively answer to a halfwit wannabe cowboy who once vowed to abolish the agency he currently leads. (No disrespect to cowboys). Perry’s appointment is a tragedy for UC Berkeley and for the global scientific community. The looming crisis at DOE could have pernicious effects beyond what any of us can easily imagine or predict. While not as immediately alarming as other issues emanating from the Trump administration, this crisis it will unfold in slow motion — behind closed doors.
Nobody knows what Perry will do with the Department of Energy, but the secretary’s political preferences suggest that we are about to witness a…
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