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Energy secretary quietly dismantles Energy Advisory Board

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman has quietly disbanded the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB), the department’s “principal independent advisory board on scientific and technical matters,” reports Nature magazine.

The board, established by President Carter in 1978, is “a mix of distinguished scientists, such as Nobel laureate Burton Richter, and business executives, such as former ExxonMobil chairman Lee Raymond.”

The Energy Department said the board is no longer necessary because Bodman has his own “scientific” background. But Bodman isn’t the first Energy secretary with scientific training. James D. Watkins, President George H.W. Bush’s Energy Secretary who received his masters degree in mechanical engineering and completed a reactor engineering course at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, kept the panel in place during his tenure.

Nature has another theory on why Bodman may have dismantled the board — disagreement with the federal government’s priorities:

The panel’s most recent report, in July 2005, recommended drastic restructuring of the nation’s nuclear-weapons labs. The study riled some in Congress, but [department spokesman Craig Stevens] denies that this had any influence on the decision to dissolve the board.

Even with Bodman’s chemical engineering background, some independent voices are needed in this administration.

Editorial Notes: Unfortunately, the Nature article cited is behind a subscriber-only wall. See original article for comments. -BA

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