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home : • news : CALIFORNIA NEWS Thursday, May 14, 2009

5/14/2009 9:12:00 AM  Email this article • Print this article
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Kawamura: Science must lead the way
‘We are stuck in the 20th century,’ ag secretary says

Wes Sander
Capital Press

Science needs to take a stronger lead in setting future food and energy policy, California Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura told a gathering of the energy community Wednesday.

In a time and place where people enjoy the "luxury of abundance," the presence of many choices - in food as well as energy sources - can create strong opinions that too often influence policy, Kawamura said at the Sixth Annual Forum of the California Biomass Collaborative in Sacramento.

"It's interesting how in our world, we're fighting (amongst) ourselves for what kind of food should be on the plate," Kawamura said. "And it's interesting, that carries on into the energy sector. We've got nuclear, we've got petroleum, we've got solar, wind, geothermal, we've got biomass; we've got a bunch of choices.

"What happens very often is people form an opinion on what their preference is for any kind of food supply, and how it should be produced ... and they have a preference for what kind of energy should be produced or not produced," Kawamura said. "They demonize other kinds of energy, they demonize certain kinds of foods, they make all kinds of pretexts."

While food shortages afflict large parts of the globe, policy makers argue over issues that should be more clearly defined through science, Kawamura said. But people often don't trust science.

"You start to see some of the strangest bills coming out at a time on our planet when two billion people would just like to have food on a plate predictably, and they would like to have ... access to energy," Kawamura said.

People are "distrustful of government, they're distrustful of businesses ... they're distrustful of science," he said. "They're afraid of it. They're not quite sure they understand it. We know that we have to do a lot of work toward ... raising the consciousness of what's possible in the 21st Century."

Speakers at the forum addressed the details of grid interconnection. A few alternative-energy sources are addressed in state rules, but biomass - including various cellulosic waste materials produced on farms - is not handled well by current regulations.

That means the early users of new biomass-fueled energy technologies are being discouraged, Kawamura said.

"I hope ... that the early adopters are not punished for going out and trying to make change ... (that) in fact they're embraced and they're really given a platform," he said.

"The science community needs to really step up and open up people's eyes and invite them into the 21st century," Kawamura said. "Because if we don't, we are stuck in the 20th century with a lot of preconceptions, a lot of misconceptions, a lot of challenges and beliefs. And when people believe things, it's very hard to change (those beliefs)."




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