Energy Secretary Steven Chu today dismissed accusations of fraud in climate science generated by the release last year of hacked e-mails between researchers, saying e-mails showed "warts and bumps" in the scientific process.
Chu told a Senate panel there are "mountains" of evidence that climate change is real and the Energy Department will continue to rely on the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which critics say has been undermined by the so-called "Climategate" e-mails.
"That's a little snippet out of all the things that have shown the climate is changing," Chu said of the e-mails. "There are always little warts and bumps as science goes on."
Chu was responding to Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who had pressed him for his views about the reliability of the U.N. climate science during an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.
Barasso was citing accusations of scientific fraud spurred by hacked e-mails released late last year from scientists at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. Critics say the e-mails show that scientists were colluding to subvert the peer-review process to further their belief that the climate is changing.
Supportive scientists and politicians have largely taken the same stance as Chu, saying it does not undercut years of research on rising temperatures, expanding seas and precipitation changes.
The Senate hearing was focused on research and development spending, and much of the questioning by Republican senators focused on why DOE isn't doing more to promote nuclear energy. One lawmaker accusing him of "slow-walking" the process.
Supporters of expanded nuclear are growing impatient with Chu about the time it is taking to appoint members to a planned blue-ribbon commission to study nuclear waste fuel policy options. But he has given no firm dates.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said the Obama administration is too focused on more exotic technologies, like solar and biofuels generated from crop waste.
"You're slow-walking things that are proven, and wanting to spend lots of money on things that are unproven." Corker said. "It makes me less trustful of the department."
Chu said establishing the blue-ribbon panel involves "complicated issues," but he declined to explain what those are.
"I can assure you I am not slow-walking this. I'm pushing it as hard as I can," Chu said. "I don't want to go into the details of why it's taking so long."
The closest Chu got to explaining the delay was saying that he wants to maintain his credibility as a scientist.
The Obama administration supports expansion of nuclear energy. But one member of the Senate's Democratic Caucus questioned placing an emphasis on nuclear energy.
"This country has put more money into nuclear fuel than any other fuel," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). "I'd like to see volunteers, maybe Kentucky or Tennessee would volunteer, for places to store all that [nuclear] waste. I usually don't see a lot of hands going up."
Correction: The quote from Sen. Corker was changed from an earlier, inaccurate version.