The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has blocked more than 40 renewable energy research studies from publication, according to a new report supported by 40 interviews with current officials at the department and its laboratories
The primary choke point is a mandate that a political appointee must sign off on all research prior to publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Documents obtained by the watchdog InvestigateWest show that the DOE used that review process to apply special scrutiny to any study that compared energy sources or made projections about the future of renewable energy. Political appointees watered down the findings of any studies that suggested a bright future for clean energy, and some of those studies were delayed for years.
Career staffers at DOE referred to the review process as a “black hole” that enables the department to block publication of research without taking affirmative steps to censor. Many studies just sit, and sit, and sit. Meanwhile, potential investors in renewable energy projects sat on the sidelines waiting for the studies to signal how to direct their funds.
During the Trump era, political interference in the work of government scientists has become so commonplace that it barely even qualifies as news anymore. But the recent expose on the shenanigans at DOE reminds us of an important fact. The stories you hear about—the interference with big studies like the National Climate Assessment or the move to ignore decades of air pollution research—are merely the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of scientists work for the federal government, and Uncle Sam funds roughly half of the nation’s basic science research. Innovators in important industries like medicine, transportation, and renewable energy rely on that pipeline of research to move the country forward. Donald Trump is shutting off the research pipeline at the source, in an attempt to prop up dying and irresponsible industries like coal and gas.