Going out on a high. Interview by Ivan Semeniuk.


ing resolution, the agency must keep spending on the Constellation programme, which is budgeted at around $7 billion per year. Keith Cowing, editor of NASAWatch.com, says it is hard to see how NASA can finance the shuttle flight while juggling everything else. “It’s like trying to take a large truck and do a sudden left turn,” he says. NASA may be especially susceptible to political wrangling in the new Congress because many influential Republicans, including Gordon’s successor on the science committee, Ralph Hall (Texas), have NASA centres in their districts or states and support a strong manned-spaceflight programme. Their resistance will make it harder for Obama to give the agency a fresh direction. Hall spoke against the reauthorization of America COMPETES, arguing that he would rather scrutinize and vote on each science programme funded by the bill than give agencies such as the NSF a wholesale increase. He has already singled out for criticism the $900-million allocated to ARPA-E, a new agency of the US Department of Energy that promotes advanced energy research. ARPA-E originally had bipartisan support and Hall’s scepticism came as a disappointment to Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering, who has championed COMPETES. “I believe the uniqueness and full importance of ARPA-E was missed,” Vest says. A battle over energy policy may well be inevitable because several incoming Republicans have expressed scepticism about climate change. Incoming chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Fred Upton (Republican, Michigan), represents a moderate voice, but he has appointed more conservative lawmakers to chair his subcommittees. John Shimkus (Republican, Illinois), who heads the new environment and economy subcommittee, made headlines in November when he quoted scripture to make the case that God would not destroy Earth through global warming. Ed Whitfield (Republican, Kentucky), who will head the new energy and power subcommittee, has already attacked the Obama administration’s regulatory initiatives, in particular suggesting that the Environmental Protection Agency has not provided “compelling scientific evidence” to justify its climate regulations. With government scaling back spending, and concerns about economic growth at the forefront, any attempt to curtail emissions is likely to face strong opposition on economic grounds. Abraham Lincoln famously observed that “a house divided” cannot stand. For US scientists, 2011 may be the year that demonstrates that a government divided cannot move. ■ Q&A Bart Gordon Going out on a high

DOI: 10.1038/469010a

Cite this paper

@article{Gordon2011GoingOO, title={Going out on a high. Interview by Ivan Semeniuk.}, author={Bart Gordon}, journal={Nature}, year={2011}, volume={469 7328}, pages={10-1} }