Best. State of the Union. Ever.January 26th, 2011
What a fantastic State of the Union address by the president. In case you missed it, the word of the night was “innovation”. You will recall that the word popped up repeatedly during our December roundtable on jobs and the future of chemistry. It’s nice to hear the same sentiment rattling around the nerve center of our government.
When you are the economy in the lead, the only way to maintain your distance from the field is to continually develop new technology. Doing so “grows the pie” such that you can sustain your own growth in the face of rising competition. If we fail to grow the pie, other countries will eventually eat into our slice.
From the speech:
Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.
This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
While there is certainly an undertone of gloom in this passage, I’d probably have been more explicit. The truth is that if the solution to cheap energy is not developed in the United States, we are going to have big problems in maintaining our world superiority. Big problems. To me, research on clean energy technology is every bit as much about national security as it is about helping our economy or the environment.
Of course, the hard part falls to us: the people in the trenches. That’s an exciting (and humbling) responsibility. Speaking of excitement, I nearly soiled my pants when a mere 15 minutes into his speech, Obama let loose with this:
That’s what Americans have done for over two hundred years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo Projects of our time.
At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars.
“Hooooooly Sh’t!! That’s us!!” Mom saw it and was pleased. You can’t ask for much more than that.