Saturday, February 9, 2008

No Futuregen

These are probably dark days at the Sonicburger in Mattoon; if not exactly Charlie Trotter, then at least a more reliable dining venue than the campus of Eastern Illinois, if Snipper's experiences are anything to go by; given the recent murmurings that the Futuregen project won with such jubilation by Mattoon a few short weeks ago appears to be getting the chop. The reason appears to be concern about the rising costs (the supercollider all over again). While this might be a wise decision, and for sure it is reasonable to question the project's practicality, the abrupt about face smacks a little bit of incompetence or worse skullduggery. Surely those questions were apparent a few weeks ago and nothing really could have changed since the time of the award to change anything; so why waste all the resources on having the competition in the first place?

Along with talk about reducing or eliminating subsidies for ethanol production from corn (totally appropriate in my view) it has been a bad time for energy development in Illinois. Add to that the travesties that have been wraught in funding at the noble Fermi and Argonne one has to wonder what the powers that be have against the Land of Lincoln.

Go the homepage of Fermilab and this is what you will read:

"Budget impact on Fermilab
The FY08 federal budget cut $94 million in funding for High Energy Physics. The dimished (sic) funds will have a powerful impact at Fermilab, requiring workforce adjustments and forcing the cancellation of R&D for experiments and technology key to the future of particle physics. Included in the cuts are funding for the NOvA neutrino experiment and funding for R&D for the International Linear Collider."

The U.S. no longer has a presence in the ILC as a result. The paper last week reported layoffs in the region of 200. To add to the insult, the administration is now trying to right things by talking about replacing the cuts in 2009. Arrogance or imbecility or both. If the money can be justified then, it can be justified now. All this against the backdrop of untold loot poured into a bottomless wastepool of military adventurism.

Visit the Argonne website and you will see something similar. This is what you will find at the page for the Intense Pulsed Neutron Source, once one of the leading structural facilities in the world:

"Dear Colleagues
It’s my sad duty to inform you of some unfortunate news regarding the future of IPNS. As you may know, the omnibus bill that was signed into law by President Bush just before the end of the year provided funding for our sponsor, Basic Energy Sciences (BES), at a level that is too low to meet both new construction commitments and maintain full operations in the US. In order to meet budget obligations, BES has ordered significant cutbacks in operations for all programs that they support. As a part of this cutback, BES has ordered a complete cessation of IPNS operations, effective immediately."

All the time we are lamenting, wailing and gnashing our teeth about the need to generate more scientists and engineers. If all students read is stories about research facilities getting shellacked, they can certainly be forgiven for thinking why bother.


Snipper "Book Zeller" said...

Do you think we have CERN to blame for this? I know that once its complete, it will dwarf anything that Fermi could put out. Do you think that had something to do with the decreased funding bill signed by he-who-must-not-be-named-but-soon-will-be-removed-from-a-position-of-power?
Indeed, a cold and gloomy past few weeks have gripped the heartland of the 21st state to join the union. Perhaps reflective of the scientific community at large.

Science and Research:
3500BC - 2008

Aylwin Forbes said...

To be fair, I think it is Congress that is at fault here rather than the one that cannot be named.