Select Committee on Energy Independence Killed, Will Innovation Die Along With It?

The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming took its final breath this week.

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The GOP is killing the "Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming" that was created by the Democrats in 2007. Partisan politics aside, the ending raises important questions about America's innovation edge, the role of science in our country, and how to manage bureaucracies.

The closing statement by Chairman Edward J. Markey focused on the issue of innovation in the United States and America's standing in the rest of the world. As Fast Company has reported, America is not doing so hot on the innovation front and we are indeed at risk of losing out to China or India if we don't beef up our math and science education.

The Select Committee functioned primarily as an advisory group and brought in leading thinkers and scientists from around the world to advise the government on the dynamics of climate change and its impact on jobs, national security, terrorism, and reliance on foreign oil. While other committees exist to address climate change, such as the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Resources Committee (both of which Chairman Markey is a senior member), the Select Committee was seen by supporters as a place for bipartisan debate, bringing together leaders to engage in rational debate.

"While I was initially skeptical of the select committee's mission, it ultimately provided a forum for bipartisan debate, and an opportunity for House Republicans to share a different view on the pressing energy and environment issues that we currently face," said Republican Representative from Wisconsin, Jim Sensenbrenner.

But the fact that multiple committees exist does raise the question of how to better manage bureaucracies. The need for better information, as brought in by the Select Committee's guest speakers, is clear. But would it be more efficient to distribute those same speakers to the already existing committees rather than create a separate one? These are all questions raised by the dissolution of the committee.

Retired Vice Admiral Dennis V. McGinn was one of the last men to testify at the final committee hearing this week. "As military leaders, we base our decisions on trends, indicators and warnings, because waiting for 100 percent certainty during a crisis can be disastrous. And as we carefully consider the threat of climate change and energy to global security, these trends and warnings are clear; we need to take appropriate action," said McGinn.

The move comes at a time when reports on climate change are solidifying, such as the finding that 2010 is one of the top three warmest years on record ever and the past decade has been the warmest decade ever.

Follow me, Jenara Nerenberg, on Twitter.

[Image: Katy Walters]

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