By Michael Bastasch
It looks like the National Science Foundation has been handing out grants for some unorthodox research projects, according to House Republicans.
This includes $700,000 in funding for a climate change musical.
House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith questioned White House science czar John Holdren in a Thursday hearing over whether or not the National Science Foundation (NSF) should have to justify its use of taxpayer dollars to fund projects. Smith pointed out some examples of questionable projects the NSF has funded.
- $700,000 on a climate change musical
- $15,000 to study fishing practices around Lake Victoria in Africa
- $340,000 to examine the “ecological consequences” of early human fires in New Zealand
- $200,000 for a three-year study of the Bronze Age around the Mediterranean
- $50,000 to survey archived 17th Century lawsuits in Peru
- $20,00 to look at the causes of stress in Bolivia
“The Administration’s willful disregard for public accountability distracts from the important issues of how America can stay ahead of China, Russia, and other countries in the highly-competitive race for technological leadership,” said Smith, a Texas Republican.
“All government employees and their agency heads need to remember they are accountable to the American taxpayer who pays their salary and funds their projects,” he added. “It is not the government’s money; it’s the people’s money.”
The $700,000 went to the play “The Great Immensity,” which is being put on by an investigative theater group called The Civilians. The play is set to premiere next month in New York City.
The play’s plot is summarized as follows: “Through her search, Phyllis uncovers a mysterious plot surrounding the upcoming international climate summit in Auckland. As the days count down to the Auckland Summit, Phyllis must decipher the plan and possibly stop it in time. With arresting projected film and video and a wide-ranging score of songs, The Great Immensity is a highly theatrical look into one of the most vital questions of our time: how can we change ourselves and our society in time to solve the enormous environmental challenges that confront us?”
The theater group also promotes major environmental groups on its website, linking to such organizations as Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and 350.org.
President Obama’s science budget has come under increased scrutiny recently — especially as the Environmental Protection Agency continues to roll out major regulations without peer review or using non-public data.
“Unfortunately, this Administration’s science budget focuses, in my view, far too much money, time, and effort on alarmist predictions of climate change,” Smith said in the hearing. “For example, the Administration tried to link hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts to climate change. Yet even the Administration’s own scientists contradicted the president.”
“The Administration also has not been as open and honest with the American people as it should,” he added. “When the Committee asked the EPA for the scientific data being used to justify some of the costliest regulations in history, their response was that they didn’t have it even though they were using it.”
Holdren justified the Obama administration’s approach to scientific funding, saying that President Obama wanted the U.S. to remain the world’s top scientific innovator.
“The Obama Administration recognizes that leadership across the frontiers of scientific knowledge is not merely a cultural tradition of our Nation; it is an economic, environmental, and national-security imperative,” Holdren said. “This Administration is committed to ensuring that America remains at the epicenter of the global revolution in scientific research and technological innovation.”