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William O'Keefe
CEO, George C. Marshall Institute

William O'Keefe

William O'Keefe is CEO at the George C. Marshall Institute, a think tank that promotes better use of science in public policy. He is a former COO at the American Petroleum Institute. ALL POSTS

Debate, Not a Nobel Prize, Should Impact Agenda

It would be unfortunate if the rationale cited by the Nobel committee in awarding this prestigious prize to President Obama gave increased momentum to his climate agenda. What we need is a more vigorous and open debate on policy options, not a rush to judgment.

The question is a reminder of an observation by the late historian Daniel Boorstin in his book the Image where he concludes that we have reached the stage where reality is judged by the image instead of the image being judged by the reality. The prestige of a Nobel prize does not reduce the need to develop a climate policy that can meet the test of being based on scientific facts and economic, energy, and technology realities.

The reality is that population growth, economic growth here and around the globe, solving the energy poverty problems of the 1.6 billion people who have no commercial energy, and the near term lack of commercially viable alternatives to fossil fuels make the goal of deep reductions in CO2 levels in current legislative proposals and proposals for Copenhagen unrealistic and distracting.

There is much that can be accomplished in slowing the growth in emissions if the focus becomes what can actually and realistically be accomplished with today's technologies and a commitment to discover, develop, and deploy the new technologies that can make a low carbon tomorrow a reality.

That may not be an exciting or highly aspirational approach, but it is one that is likely to work better than those that are based on the Kyoto model. Policies based on excessive rhetoric and what should be clearly seen as impractical goals not only waste resources but further erode public confidence and trust in our elected representatives.

By William O'Keefe  |  October 10, 2009; 10:19 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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