Crank up the hysteria machine, as President Trump is continuing his War on Science™ at the Environmental Protection Agency.
According to a story at the New York Times, the administration has removed five scientists from a review board, opening up the possibility of replacing them with representatives from various industries, which would fit into the President’s promises to reduce the regulatory grip of the department on the market:
A spokesman for the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, said he would consider replacing the academic scientists with representatives from industries whose pollution the agency is supposed to regulate, as part of the wide net it plans to cast. “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” said the spokesman, J. P. Freire.
The dismissals on Friday came about six weeks after the House passed a bill aimed at changing the composition of another E.P.A. scientific review board to include more representation from the corporate world.
Agency spokesman J.P. Friere told the newspaper that the agency wants to expand the “pool of applicants [for the 18-member board] to as broad a range as possible, to include universities that aren’t typically represented and issues that aren’t typically represented.” This could also include representatives from the energy world.
The rest of the piece is made up of quotes from Trump critics repeating variations on the theme that the president is anti-climate or anti-science because of the move. The New York Daily News goes so far to label this shuffle as the latest maneuver in Trump’s supposed “war on science.”
The horror: People with insight on how regulations affect the price of energy might have a say in how our natural resources are regulated. This may require a trigger warning for the climate crowd, but here goes: One cannot write sensible regulations with science alone.
As Conservative Review’s Logan Albright wrote in anticipation of the highly publicized and nakedly partisan “March for Science” weeks before, science can tell us a lot of things, but empirical findings cannot tell public officials what to do with those findings.
The appeal to science is one of the progressive movement’s go-to tactics in the attempt to appear reasonable and unbiased. After all, science doesn’t have a political agenda, right? As Joe Friday said, it’s “just the facts, ma’am.” And since science is synonymous with learning, inquiry, and critical thought, the only people who would reject science must be ignorant, unintelligent, and superstitious.
The trouble with this line of reasoning is that it anthropomorphizes science into something that has opinions, conclusions, and recommendations. This not only fundamentally misunderstands the concept of science, but can lead down some pretty dangerous roads if we’re not careful.
First of all, let’s get straight what science is and is not. The word “science” is only a noun for grammatical convenience.
“What these protestors really mean,” he concludes, “is that they want their particular conclusions on controversial topics to be the standard by which government operates, particularly when it relates to climate science.”
Likewise, too often these conclusions and recommendations ignore the real-world effects of the regulations created by the white-frocked technocrats on these unaccountable boards.
After all, the methods and questions of scientific reasoning do not account for how much more a single mother of two will pay to heat her house the subsequent winter because her energy companies increased compliance costs, or how long a career trucker will have to wait for a cost-of-living increase, or what green fiats will do to the price of diesel.
You don’t need a Ph.D. to care about the land. Ask any farmer, rancher, hunter, fisherman, or hiking enthusiast. You’ll find more than enough concern about the ill effects of pollution on our nation’s precious natural resources. Furthermore, you’ll often find the same drive to preserve these resources in the long term, as these sorts of enterprises – whether economic or recreational – are not typically something anyone would deny to their children and grandchildren.
Likewise, by market forces, energy producers have the incentive to provide the most inexpensive and efficient products they can because of the demands of the kinds of people mentioned above. How government regulations passed by those with little to no skin in the game affect everyone else is indeed some needed insight in this process. People inside the EPA who have real-world experience can provide that insight.
And while these concerned people often do not have the degrees or lab coats necessary to assuage the standard-issue concerns of the technocratic mind, they do understand what happens when detached central planners are given too much control over the land.
Ideally, regulations would be written as locally as possibly by legislatures alone and only when absolutely necessary. But tailoring the regulatory power of an agency that shouldn’t exist to include a broader range of concerns is a step in the right direction.
Just because someone makes a living from the land does not make him or her incapable of contributing to how it is governed; rather, those very people are often far more qualified than those writing regulations from an ivory tower. The view to the contrary says that citizens are incapable of governing themselves, and this is contrary to our very founding principles.