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Published: Sunday, 6/19/2005

Back to Big Oil

What a surprise. The White House official recently exposed as having altered Bush Administration climate documents to downplay the link between carbon dioxide and global warming is returning from whence he came.

Philip A. Cooney, who was chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, has resigned to take a job starting this fall with oil giant Exxon Mobil.

Before Mr. Cooney went to the White House in 2001, he was a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, the voice of Big Oil. He is only one of many officials who have helped the administration fashion industry-friendly energy and environmental policies.

Mr. Cooney's contribution, according to an expose by the New York Times, was to carefully edit government reports to cast doubt on the contention by virtually every reputable scientist that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from industrial processes are responsible for global warming.

The Times published documents bearing handwritten notations in the margins by Mr. Cooney, a lawyer with a degree in economics but no expertise to make scientific judgments.

The story lends credence to those who contend that, for the Bush Administration, politics always outweighs knowledge, especially science knowledge.

No prior administration in modern times has used its power to such an extent to denigrate science and scientists, notably those who disagree with the White House line not just on climate change but on evolution, missile defense, weapons of mass destruction, and other issues.

If encouraged in the highest reaches of government, politicization of science risks permanent damage to the nation's ability to recognize challenges of the future before they become problems too big to solve.

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