Friday, March 18, 2011

Attack on Climate Studies Would Shutter Entire DOE Biology Program

Scientists were caught by surprise when they found out that the Department of Energy's (DOE's) office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) would be shut down if a 2011 spending bill passed last month by the House of Representatives holds sway (Science, 25 February 2011, p. 997). The new Republican House majority has pledged to trim the federal deficit by cutting spending—and to be sure, House leaders are not fans of government-funded climate change research. BER-funded researchers don't always toil in obscurity, however. The Joint Bio-Energy Institute (JBEI) at LBNL has been something of a rock star in the biofuels community. Directed by Jay Keasling, JBEI has made significant progress in developing more efficient conversion of cellulosic biomass into liquid fuels. That progress “would grind to a halt” under the House bill, says Keasling, a chemical engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who has also achieved fame for large-scale production of synthetic artemisinin to treat malaria. More>