The new Biden Administration has a full plate. Here are the science, technology, and health policies it should prioritize.
President Joe Biden promised a busy first 100 days in office. Some of his plans can be accomplished through executive orders, while others may require cooperation with Congress. In the first 100 days, these should be the President's science, technology, and health priorities:
#1. Get the coronavirus vaccine administered quickly to as many people as possible. From the federal to the state and local level, the vaccine rollout has been plagued by issues. As a result, the latest tabulation showed that only 39% of the vaccines distributed have actually made it into people's arms. The Biden administration is going to need to prioritize logistics. For example, in USA Today, Dr. Chuck Dinerstein and I proposed using large, unoccupied spaces -- such as school gyms and cafeterias -- as makeshift clinics for mass vaccination.
The Biden administration must also give clear guidance on which groups to prioritize. Medically, it makes the most sense to give the vaccine to the highest-risk groups, such as those with underlying conditions. However, this is difficult to verify. Perhaps vaccines should be administered based on age alone, with the oldest Americans being allowed first dibs. As more people get vaccinated, the age range can be lowered so that progressively younger people become eligible.
Finally, the administration needs to help increase vaccine production, if that's even possible. President Biden wants to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase the number of vaccines being produced, but it's not entirely clear how this would work. Vaccine manufacturers are already doing the best they can.
#2. Provide guidance on the legal status of cryptocurrency. Admittedly, this is pretty far outside ACSH's wheelhouse, but it's a technology issue that needs more attention. For the uninitiated, cryptocurrencies are not centrally controlled (like the way the Fed controls the U.S. dollar). These have become increasingly popular, and the cryptocurrency that started the trend, called Bitcoin, is now worth over $36,000 per coin. (There aren't actual coins; the currency is entirely digital.)
Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued a company named Ripple which has produced its own cryptocurrency called XRP. The lawsuit caused the value of XRP to tumble, wiping away billions of dollars of wealth. More importantly, it sowed confusion into an industry that is already suffering from a lack of regulatory guidance. Cryptocurrencies are likely to play a role in our ever increasingly tech-oriented future, but legal and political uncertainties are holding back innovation. President Biden's SEC must make a decision.
#3. Make smart decisions on energy and climate policy. Energy and climate policy are inextricably linked. One cannot be addressed without affecting the other. President Biden hopes to invest in renewable energy, but this is mostly an expensive distraction. Instead, our country should invest in meltdown-proof Generation IV nuclear power plants and smart ways to recycle and dispose of radioactive waste.
President Biden's apparent decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline is virtue signaling meant to placate environmental activists. While accomplishing nothing of value, the pipeline's cancellation will send a clear signal to any companies hoping to do business inside the U.S.: The government can capriciously and maliciously interfere at any time on political grounds.