BEFORE HE WENT to work at the White House, Philip A. Cooney was a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, which opposes mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions. After he left the White House this month, Mr. Cooney said he would go to work for Exxon Mobil Corp., which opposes mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions. In between, Mr. Cooney's job -- as chief of staff for the President's Council on Environmental Quality -- included reading and editing scien- tific reports that assessed the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change. A whistle-blower who has produced documents to back up his claim says Mr. Cooney edited those reports so as to play down that impact -- an action that could well make mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions less likely. Isn't there something wrong with this picture?
Legally, probably not. According to the White House, Mr. Cooney recused himself, as required, from "all matters to do with energy or climate change" while he was negotiating his new job. Morally and politically, however, this small incident was troubling: Mr. Cooney represented the oil and gas industry's interests immediately before and after he worked at the White House, and he appears not to have adjusted his thinking while he was there.
This administration frequently, and angrily, denies charges of manipulating scientific evidence to back up its environmental and energy policies -- including charges that it has challenged the science behind a pending Group of Eight statement on climate change. The president also insists that he cares about global warming, even though yesterday the White House helped kill even a moderate nod to the issue in the Senate's version of the energy bill. But in employing Mr. Cooney, the White House wasn't even paying lip service to the principle of scientific neutrality or to the idea that this issue matters. Next month, when the president meets G-8 leaders, it won't be surprising if no one pays anything more than lip service to his administration's positions, either.