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Wise move to advance research efforts
Daily Herald Editorial Board
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Published: 7/10/2008 12:12 AM

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If our nation is to keep pace with the rest of the world in its technological acumen - now ever so critical with skyrocketing energy costs - it must make a heavy investment in research.

Last week, Congress took an important step in this direction. Actually, it corrected a bad misstep in restoring deep cuts it made last year in federal funding for Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. We're glad it ultimately occurred to Congress - and President Bush - that putting federal laboratories on bare-bones budgets wasn't the brightest thing to do at a time when we're counting on researchers to keep developing the kind of technology that has improved the quality of our lives - and in making us more energy independent.

That is exactly what scientists at Argonne and Fermilab having been doing for several years.

Just last week, Argonne announced that it has developed a new tool to improve the analysis and evaluation of the performance of hybrid vehicles. The Voice of America recently reported that Argonne researchers and engineers are also studying ways that would allow vehicles to travel more miles on electricity, through a battery that would be recharged by a gasoline-powered backup system.

Fermilab has also long been producing technological advancements that have productive real-life applications. This includes advances in computer science, electrical engineering and health care. Fermilab's particle accelerators are being used by the medical profession to treat cancer.

It would have been very difficult to continue this cutting edge technology had Argonne and Fermilab been forced to make do with far fewer federal dollars.

U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, a Hinsdale Republican, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, a Democrat from Geneva, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin worked hard to make sure the two federal laboratories got their funding restored. They are to receive a share of $62.5 million in new research dollars from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Workers at Fermilab are particularly grateful for the infusion of new federal money, as they were facing layoffs.

We need these researchers at Argonne and Fermilab to be on the job. Their work is complex; what they do in the labs is beyond the comprehension of most of us.

But when their work is done, we are all the better for maintaining our competitive edge in research and development throughout the world. They have found ways to improve our lives - even save our lives.

And they are working hard to find an answer to one of the most troubling questions of the day - how can we power our vehicles, homes and industries in a way that is remarkably different from the expensive and tenuous manner we do so today.