Obama: “Our future on this planet depends on our willingness to address the challenge posed by carbon pollution,” vows “we will exceed [R&D] level achieved at the height of the space race.”


Obama is keeping his promise to restore science to its rightful place with sharply increased funding for research and development, which started with the stimulus package.  As Greenwire reports in “Obama promises record U.S. research spending” (subs. req’d):

In his first major science address since taking office, President Obama promised today to increase U.S. public and private spending to historic highs for science research and development.

“I’m here today to set this goal: We will devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development,” Obama said during a speech at the National Academy of Sciences.

He added, “We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race…”

Specifically, the White House said the stimulus bill provided $21.5 billion for research and development and the fiscal 2010 budget proposal includes $150 billion over 10 years for renewable energy research as well as $75 billion to make permanent the research and experimentation tax credit.

In another set of stirring remarks — well, stirring if you’re a scientist or care about science (full text here, plus story on teleprompter “mutiny” that got almost as much attention in the MSM as the gist of his remarks) — Obama again said energy and climate were the top priorities:

Second, in no area will innovation be more important than in the development of new technologies to produce, use, and save energy “” which is why my administration has made an unprecedented commitment to developing a 21st century clean energy economy, and why we put a scientist in charge of the Department of Energy. (Applause.)

Our future on this planet depends on our willingness to address the challenge posed by carbon pollution. And our future as a nation depends upon our willingness to embrace this challenge as an opportunity to lead the world in pursuit of new discovery….

There will be no single Sputnik moment for this generation’s challenges to break our dependence on fossil fuels. In many ways, this makes the challenge even tougher to solve — and makes it all the more important to keep our eyes fixed on the work ahead.

But energy is our great project, this generation’s great project. And that’s why I’ve set a goal for our nation that we will reduce our carbon pollution by more than 80 percent by 2050. And that is why “” (applause) “” and that is why I’m pursuing, in concert with Congress, the policies that will help meet us “” help us meet this goal.

My recovery plan provides the incentives to double our nation’s capacity to generate renewable energy over the next few years “” extending the production tax credit, providing loan guarantees and offering grants to spur investment. Just take one example: Federally funded research and development has dropped the cost of solar panels by tenfold over the last three decades. Our renewed efforts will ensure that solar and other clean energy technologies will be competitive.

My budget includes $150 billion over 10 years to invest in sources of renewable energy as well as energy efficiency. It supports efforts at NASA, recommended as a priority by the National Research Council, to develop new space-based capabilities to help us better understand our changing climate.

And today, I’m also announcing that for the first time, we are funding an initiative “” recommended by this organization “” called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E. (Applause.)

This is based, not surprisingly, on DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was created during the Eisenhower administration in response to Sputnik. It has been charged throughout its history with conducting high-risk, high-reward research. And the precursor to the Internet, known as ARPANET, stealth technology, the Global Positioning System all owe a debt to the work of DARPA.

So ARPA-E seeks to do the same kind of high-risk, high-reward research. My administration will pursue, as well, comprehensive legislation to place a market-based cap on carbon emissions. We will make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. We will put in place the resources so that scientists can focus on this critical area. And I am confident that we will find a wellspring of creativity just waiting to be tapped by researchers in this room and entrepreneurs across our country. We can solve this problem. (Applause.)

Now, the nation that leads the world in 21st century clean energy will be the nation that leads in the 21st century global economy. I believe America can and must be that nation. But in order to lead in the global economy and to ensure that our businesses can grow and innovate, and our families can thrive, we’re also going to have to address the shortcomings of our health care system.

Kudos to Obama for keeping this core commitment to science and technology.


9 Responses to Obama: “Our future on this planet depends on our willingness to address the challenge posed by carbon pollution,” vows “we will exceed [R&D] level achieved at the height of the space race.”

  1. An implied restatement of your title is

    “Our future on this planet depends on our political support for President Obama…”

  2. oxnardprof says:

    THank you for sharing this speech. I will have to listen to it myself.

    It does seem to me that elections matter – so we should individually focus on the local races for voices that will support strong action on climate change. Of my Federal reps, I believe Senator Feinstein is the weakest, but still more supportive than not (I think). Senator Boxer and Representative Capps are usually positive voices, so I make sure I support them.

    Strong support politically is vital to get movement started, and once started, continued.

  3. ee grad student says:

    Richard Pauli,

    I think the more accurate restatement of the title would be:

    “Our president actually understands that there is nothing more important than ensuring that there is a future for humans on this planet.”

  4. john says:

    Mr. Pauli:

    It doesn’t mean anything other than what it says — but I suppose if you juxtaopse Obama’s statement with the anti-science, pro ignoramous side of our political spectrum your interpretation is right.

    Having said that, I’d rather see him put a full court press on policies that make our economy use energy more efficiently. It’s not about how much money the government spends, it’s about how smart out policies are — things like Van Hollen’s green bank and efficiency bonds in conjunction with super aggressive auto efficiency standards are what will get us where we need to be — not R&D and $$$.

  5. In a more perfect world there would be ferocious climate leadership in state and local governments, in the military, all of our industry, the courts, medical, and every federal agency. Too many institutions have been long since emasculated. I hope the EPA steps forward soon. I am very pleased that Obama is leading us in this direction. Shouldn’t we have other leaders doing so also?

  6. Yuebing says:

    Just to reiterate,

    If you have the time, read the transcript of Obama’s talk to the NAS. Hope and Progress.

  7. Leland Palmer says:

    This amount of funding for science is still small potatoes compared to what we just spent to invade Iraq.

    But, good for Obama for increasing it, anyway.

  8. The problem isn’t so much how much we spend on R&D, but how we spend it. Applied science for pollution is scorned, while fruitless big science such as particle physics, supercolliders, hot fusion, string theory, hydrogen cars, and absurd CO2 dumping schemes (“sequestration”) absorb nearly all available money.

    More money down the same black holes will not help, and will leave us too impoverished for a later effort once we know what to do.

  9. James says:

    It’s inspiring and reassuring to hear our President recognize the central role of science and innovation in our nation’s future. I hope he can continue to build support for accelerated transition to clean energy and transportation systems, and with that support set more aggressive goals than stated above.