In choosing Texas this week as the site for the much-sought-after $4.4 billion supercollider science project, the Department of Energy has not laid the issue to rest. The six losing states on the list of finalists apparently are going to fight the decision, but that seems an awful waste of time.
Congressmen from some of the losing states - Michigan, Illinois, North Carolina, Arizona, Colorado, and Tennessee - bitterly claimed their sites were the best and blamed the selection of Texas on politics.There may be some truth to that claim, but how much is questionable. The DOE tried hard to keep the selection above politics and had an independent panel sift through the first 35 proposals from 25 states, including Utah.
Utah fell by the wayside early, but still held onto some hope that the finalist would be part of the Mountain West, either Arizona or Colorado, and that Utah would reap benefits from that proximity.
Clearly, having the site in Texas means that the Mountain West will be largely excluded from any economic benefit. The supercollider will have a full-time staff of 2,500 and cost $270 million a year to operate.
For the losing states to cry "foul," and seek a review of the decision is understandable, but not likely to succeed. If powerful Texas did use political muscle to affect the outcome, that same clout can easily defeat any assault on the site selection.
President-elect George Bush is from Texas. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, Democratic vice presidential candidate, is still chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
But before Texas begin to celebrate, there is a substantial question as to whether Congress will be able to fund the $4.4 billion project at all. There is no doubt that it is a worthy endeavor, but in an era of budget deficits, the necessity of budget cuts, critics in the scientific community, and sore losers in the states not chosen, financing the supercollider is far from being a sure thing.
Under the circumstances, refighting the site selection is useless and ought to be abandoned. What's done is done and can't be changed without killing the supercollider project in the process.