SAN JOSE, Calif. – In his State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama called for more federal government investment in R&D, education and transportation at what he dubbed is a "Sputnik moment."
President Obama said he will bolster federal R&D spending in "biomedical, IT and especially clean technology" in his 2011 budget to come in a few weeks. Bolstered spending on energy R&D will come from "eliminating the billions we currently give to oil companies," he said.
"They are doing just fine," Obama said. "Instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's," he said.
The President called for putting a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Looking farther ahead he challenged the U.S. to get 80 percent of its energy by 2035 from renewable sources including clean coal, wind, solar, nuclear sources.
The U.S. is falling behind in innovation, education and infrastructure, Obama said.
China scored two coups in R&D in 2010, Obama noted. It opened the world's largest solar R&D facility and it commissioned the world's most powerful supercomputer.
In education, the U.S. now ranks ninth in percent of people with college degrees. "By the end of the decade the U.S. should have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world," he said.
Obama suggested his administration will propose on a new education package but provided few specifics. He did call for 100,000 new science, technology, engineering and math teachers. He also called for a $10,000 four-year tuition tax credit and for work on immigration reform.
"Let's stop expelling talented [foreign] researchers who could be staffing our labs and enriching our nation," he said. "It's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but also the winner of the science fair," he added.
His words came the same day a U.S. national report card reported only 34 percent of the nation’s fourth-graders, 30 percent of eighth-graders, and 21 percent of twelfth-graders are performing at or above the proficient level in science.
The U.S. is also falling behind in infrastructure, Obama said. He called for making high speed rail available to 85 percent of U.S. citizens in the next 20 years.
"Our infrastructure used to be the best in the world, but we’ve slipped," Obama said, noting greater spending on high-speed rail in China and Russia and greater availability of broadband in South Korea.
While proposing spending increases, Obama also called for lowering the federal deficit by freezing domestic spending for the next five years. He also called for simplifying the tax code.