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Report: Holdren to Lead White House Science Policy

By Joel Achenbach
President-elect Obama will announce this weekend that he has selected physicist John Holdren, who has devoted much of his career to energy and environmental research, as his White House science adviser, according to a published report today.

The Obama transition office would not confirm Holdren's selection. Last night, asked by The Post to comment on the science adviser search, Holdren responded by e-mail that he would be unable to comment because of his work with the Obama transition team.

The report today appeared online at ScienceInsider, a news blog published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Holdren served as president of AAAS in 2006.

Holdren's career as a physicist has led him into a variety of fields, including climate change and environmental policy. He is on the faculty at Harvard, where he is Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy. He is also director of the Woods Hole Research Institute in Falmouth, Mass. He spent many years on the faculty at Berkeley, where he remains a professor emeritus.

According to the Woods Hole Web site, Holdren has been a prolific author of books dealing with energy and environmental issues. The titles include "Energy" (1971), "Human Ecology" (1973), "Ecoscience (1977), "Energy in Transition" (1980), "Earth and the Human Future" (1987) and, most recently, "Ending the Energy Stalemate" (2004).

The science adviser is officially the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, or OSTP, which is part of the Executive Office of the President. The position requires Senate confirmation.

The science community and congressional Democrats have lobbied the Obama camp to elevate the influence of the science adviser in the White House.

"You really have to have someone that the president trusts," said Rep. Bart Gordon (D.-Tenn), who chairs the House Committee on Science and Technology. "I would take the second best scientist over the first best scientist if there was a relationship there and the president could work with that person."

Gordon added, "It doesn't matter what their title is if they're not in the room. You got to bring 'im in the room."

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 18, 2008; 2:46 PM ET
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Comments

In addition to my standard complaint about Obama not being legally qualified to become President, I would feel comfortable matching up scientific qualifications of Holdren vs. the current Director, Marburger, who obtained his Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Stanford University (my alma mater studiorum). Where are your graduate degrees from? Are you seriously saying that Marburger is not a "real" scientist?

Posted by: JakeD | December 22, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Although touted as a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Holdren was admitted through a back door called the “temporary nominating group”, a process which appears designed and has certainly been exercised to gain entry for large numbers of environmental alarmists who, it is fair to presume from this exception, would not gain election through the normal channel.

Also typically styled as a professor at Harvard, Holdren is primarily employed by the Woods Hole Research Center (an environmental advocacy group, not to be confused with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution which is a research organization — both discussed [later in the book]). Despite his outside affiliations and activism he typically instead carries the Harvard tag, lending the institution’s academic prestige to his environmentalist advocacy, thereby embodying a growing tactic of environmentalists using credentials from an academic perch where they may not be all that active to push an activist agenda through other, pressure group perches where they are in fact quite busy.

The vocal Holdren predicted in the mid-1980s that climate-related catastrophes might kill as many as one billion people before the year 2020 but now brushes off inquiries about such failed catastrophism while continuing to sound a similar alarm.

Posted by: roberth | December 20, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse


i'm astonished actually, what with the plethora of DLC neo-liberal free market fundies and Social Darwin Capitalists Obama has picked - and with the likes of Rick Warren now on the stage with Obama...it's almost like a shooting star having Dr. Holdren in the White House Ofc of Science and Technology.
I hope my daughter is the head of this office someday.

Posted by: Darwin26 | December 18, 2008 10:26 PM | Report abuse

I think it speaks volumes that Obama has the confidence and sense of self to invite two Nobelists (Chu and Holdren (for Pugwash work)) to join his leadership team. This array of talent just keeps getting better and better each day.

Posted by: gottabeanon1 | December 18, 2008 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: paulguinnessy | December 18, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

The Obama Administration is making a statement by selecting its science advisor right as it finishes announcing all of its cabinet nominees. In doing so, PERHAPS they are considering making Dr. Holdren a member of the Cabinet as well. As Bart Gordon said, you need "to bring im in the room" which would be a radical departure from the current administration where the science advisor was barely in the same zip code!

Posted by: higheredadvoacte | December 18, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Wow! A real scientist to head the Office of Science and Technology. A radical departure from the faith based pseudo-scientists that have run the show in Washington for the last eight years.

Posted by: mhhaggard | December 18, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Wow! A real scientist to head the Office of Science and Technology. A radical departure from the faith based pseudo-scientists that have run the show in Washington for the last eight years.

Posted by: mhhaggard | December 18, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

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