The dedication last month of Fermi National Laboratory as a National Environmental Research Park may mark the resurgence of an obscure, 20-year-old Department of Energy program to study the environment. In the past three months the program has gained, along with Fermilab’s unique prairie acreage, a catchy new name—ParkNet—and a mandate to use DOE computer networks to expand collaborative research on the environment.

DOE officials say that the new name and the emphasis on computing highlight the department’s desire to play a leading role in understanding global climate change. They say it is merely a coincidence that the $5 million program is taking on a higher profile at the same time the department is under sharp attack for the environmental consequences of its 45 years of managing the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities. “It is my hope that DOE will become the world leader in environmental technology, and a valuable resource...

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