Barack Obama strives to become a second term president of theUSA. Not just his plans but also his track record of the last fouryears matter. “Through the Recovery Act, my Administrationcommitted over $100 billion to support groundbreaking innovationwith investments in energy, basic research and education.”
As a follow up on thesuccessful ScienceDebate 2008, the USpresidential candidates for 2012 answered these 14 most pressingquestions, put before them by ScienceDebate 2012.Mitt Romney’s answers you’ll find
1. Innovation and theEconomy
Science and technology have been responsible for over halfof the growth of the U.S. economy since WWII, when the federalgovernment first prioritized peacetime science mobilization. Butseveral recent reports question America’s continued leadership inthese vital areas. What policies will best ensure that Americaremains a world leader in innovation?
I believe that in order to be globally competitive in the 21stcentury and to create an American economy that is built to last, wemust create an environment where invention, innovation, andindustry can flourish. We can work together to create an economybuilt on American manufacturing, American energy, and skills forAmerican workers.
I am committed to doubling funding for key research agencies tosupport scientists and entrepreneurs, so that we can preserveAmerica’s place as the world leader in innovation, and strengthenU.S. leadership in the 21st century’s high-tech knowledge-basedeconomy.
To prepare American children for a future in which they can bethe highly skilled American workers and innovators of tomorrow, Ihave set the goal of preparing 100,000 science and math teachersover the next decade. These teachers will meet the urgent need totrain one million additional science, technology, engineering andmath (STEM) graduates over the next decade.
2. Climate Change
The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern aboutthe potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on theplanet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, andother policies proposed to address global climate change-and whatsteps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges likeclimate change that cross national boundaries?
Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of thisgeneration, and we have to meet this challenge by driving smartpolicies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation andresult in a range of economic and social benefits. Since takingoffice I have established historic standards limiting greenhousegas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history.
My administration has made unprecedented investments in cleanenergy, proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for newfossil-fuel-fired power plants and reduced carbon emissions withinthe Federal Government. Since I took office, the U.S. is importingan average of 3 million fewer barrels of oil every day, and ourdependence on foreign oil is at a 20-year low.
We are also showing international leadership on climate change,reaching historic agreements to set emission limits in unison withall major developed and developing nations. There is still more tobe done to address this global problem. I will continue efforts toreduce our dependence on oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissionswhile creating an economy built to last.
3. Research and the Future
Federally funded research has helped to produce America’smajor postwar economies and to ensure our national security, buttoday the UK, Singapore, China, and Korea are making competitiveinvestments in research. Given that the next Congress will facespending constraints, what priority would you give to investment inresearch in your upcoming budgets?
I strongly support investments in research and development thathelp spur America innovation and proposed a goal that, as acountry, we invest more than 3 percent of our GDP in publicand private research and development-exceeding the levelachieved at the height of the space race.
That’s why, under the Recovery Act, my administration enactedthe largest research and development increase in our nation’shistory. Through the Recovery Act, my Administration committed over$100 billion to support groundbreaking innovation with investmentsin energy, basic research, education and training, advanced vehicletechnology, health IT and health research, high speed rail, smartgrid, and information technology.
Of these funds, we made a $90 billion investment in clean energythat will produce as much as $150 billion in clean energy projects.In fact, the Recovery Act made the largest single investment inclean energy in American history. And our investments in energy notonly focus on research, but on the deployment of these newtechnologies.
We have invested highly in important research being done toimprove the health and wellness of all Americans so that we cancontinue to unravel clues to treating or preventing some of life’smost daunting and debilitating diseases, develop powerful newmedicines, and even define strategies that will prevent diseasefrom occurring in the first place. We have also made criticalinvestments in research and development to bolster our nationalsecurity and defense.
And my budget continues to support making permanent the R&Dtax credit, which would allow businesses the ability to invest andgrow their organizations. While making tough choices, we willcontinue to prioritize investments in research to ensure that ourcountry remains a global leader and that Americans can remaininnovators, working to better their lives and the lives aroundthem.
4. Pandemics and Biosecurity
Recent experiments show how Avian flu may becometransmissible among mammals. In an era of constant and rapidinternational travel, what steps should the United States take toprotect our population from emerging diseases, global pandemicsand/or deliberate biological attacks?
We all are aware that the world is becoming smaller every day.Advancements in technology allow Americans to travelinternationally with ease, and allow us to welcome individuals fromaround the world. This fluidity also requires that we, as a nation,are cognizant to the threats we face and are prepared to protectagainst them.
I will continue to work to strengthen our systems of publichealth so we can stop disease from spreading across our borders. Itis also important that should these threats breach our borders, ourcommunities can respond quickly, effectively, with the greatestimpact, and with the fewest consequences.
Lastly, to help our country prepare to meet these challenges, wehave been working with the private sector to assess potentialvulnerabilities. I have no doubt that we can counter any threat weface, but we cannot face it alone. We must continue to work withour international partners, remain diligent in seeking out newthreats, and prepare to act should a need arise.
Increasingly, the global economy is driven by science,technology, engineering and math, but a recent comparison of15-year-olds in 65 countries found that average science scoresamong U.S. students ranked 23rd, while average U.S. mathscores ranked 31st. In your view, why have Americanstudents fallen behind over the last three decades, and what roleshould the federal government play to better prepare students ofall ages for the science and technology-driven globaleconomy?
An excellent education remains the clearest, surest route to themiddle class. To compete with other countries we must strengthenSTEM education. Early in my administration, I called for a nationaleffort to move American students from the middle to the top of thepack in science and math achievement. Last year, I announced anambitious goal of preparing 100,000 additional STEM teachers overthe next decade, with growing philanthropic and private sectorsupport.
My “Educate to Innovate” campaign is bringing together leadingbusinesses, foundations, non-profits, and professional societies toimprove STEM teaching and learning. Recently, I outlined a plan tolaunch a new national STEM Master Teacher Corps that will beestablished in 100 sites across the country and be expanded overthe next four years to support 10,000 of the best STEM teachers inthe nation. These investments would improve the quality of STEMeducation at all levels, ensuring the next generation of Americanshas the tools to out-innovate and out-compete the rest of theworld.
Many policymakers and scientists say energy security andsustainability are major problems facing the United States thiscentury. What policies would you support to meet the demand forenergy while ensuring an economically and environmentallysustainable future?
Since taking office, I have supported an all-of-the-above energyapproach that will allow us to take control of our energy future,one where we safely and responsibly develop America’s many energyresources – including natural gas, wind, solar, oil, clean coal,and biofuels – while investing in clean energy and increasing fuelefficiency standards to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
I know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewableenergy will lead the global economy in the 21st century. That’s whyI have made the largest investment in clean energy and energyefficiency in American history and proposed an ambitious CleanEnergy Standard to generate 80 percent of our electricity fromclean energy sources like wind, solar, clean coal, and natural gasby 2035.
Since taking office, electricity production from wind and solarsources has already more than doubled in the United States. We areboosting our use of cleaner fuels, including increasing the levelof ethanol that can be blended into gasoline and implementing a newRenewable Fuel Standard that will save nearly 14 billion gallons ofpetroleum-based gasoline in 2022.
America has regained its position as the world’s leadingproducer of natural gas. My administration is promoting the safe,responsible development of America’s near 100-year supply ofnatural gas that will help support more than 600,000 jobs. Becauseof these actions, we are positioning ourselves to have cleaner andcheaper sources of fuel that make us more energy secure andposition the U.S. as a world leader in the clean energyeconomy.
Thanks to science and technology, the United States has theworld’s most productive and diverse agricultural sector, yet manyAmericans are increasingly concerned about the health and safety ofour food. The use of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, as wellas animal diseases and even terrorism pose risks. What steps wouldyou take to ensure the health, safety and productivity of America’sfood supply?
Since taking office, I have been working to safeguard our foodsupply, prevent foodborne illnesses and improve consumers’knowledge about the food they eat.
When I started, our food safety system needed to be modernized.One in four people were getting sick every year due to food-borneillness, and children and the elderly were more at risk. I signedthe most comprehensive reform of our nation’s food safety laws inmore than 70 years – giving the Food and Drug Administration theresources, authority and tools needed to make real improvements toour food safety system.
We have strengthened standards, prevented food from beingcontaminated with dangerous bacteria, bolstered surveillance usedto detect contamination problems earlier, and responded to illnessoutbreaks faster. I am also working to bolster the use oforganic farming methods and minimize pesticides and antibiotics inour food. I set the ambitious goal to increase the number ofcertified organic operations by 20 percent – and we expect to meetthat target.
I am protecting human health by ensuring that the foods theAmerican public eats will be free from unsafe levels of pesticidesby making sure that all new, and even older pesticides, comply withstrict science-based health standards. We are also making suresafer pesticides get to market faster, so that we can decrease theuse of those pesticides that have higher risks of healthimpacts.
And my administration is taking steps to limit antibiotic usefor livestock. This will help ensure that antibiotics are used onlyaddress diseases and health problems, and not for enhancing growthand other production purposes. And I will continue to work on foodsafety issues to ensure that public health is the priority in ourfood safety system.
8. Fresh Water
Less than one percent of the world’s water is liquid freshwater, and scientific studies suggest that a majority of U.S. andglobal fresh water is now at risk because of increasingconsumption, evaporation and pollution. What steps, if any, shouldthe federal government take to secure clean, abundant fresh waterfor all Americans?
I am working to ensure the integrity of the water Americans relyon every day for drinking, swimming and fishing, and that supportfarming, recreation, tourism and economic growth. My Administrationreleased a national clean water framework aimed at developing acomprehensive approach to protecting the health of America’swaters. Through partnerships with communities around the country,we are working to improve water quality, restore rivers andcritical watersheds, and we are making headway in ensuring that ournation’s waters best serve its people.
To help with water scarcity concerns in the West and elsewhere,I am supporting water conservation programs. My administration hasawarded 92 grants to water conservation projects that will saveenough water for an estimated 950,000 people. We are also workingcollaboratively with communities around the country on how to bestmanage freshwater resources in a changing climate, in order toensure adequate water supplies and protect water quality.
Having clean water isn’t enough if people don’t have access toit, which is why we are also working to improve access to cleanwater for rural American’s and border counties. Already, myadministration has invested in 5,100 water and waste watercommunity infrastructure projects to safeguard the health of 18million rural residents and support 135,000 jobs. This past summer,we also streamlined the process to improve water quality along theUS-Mexico border that previously didn’t have the right waterfacilities to ensure clean water.
By working together, we can continue to build on theseachievements and find more efficient ways to use the wateravailable, conserve where we can, protect jobs, and secure safedrinking water for all Americans today and for years to come.
9. The Internet
The Internet plays a central role in both our economy andour society. What role, if any, should the federal government playin managing the Internet to ensure its robust social, scientific,and economic role?
A free and open Internet is essential component of Americansociety and of the modern economy. I support legislation to protectintellectual property online, but any effort to combat onlinepiracy must not reduce freedom of expression, increasecybersecurity risk, or undermine the dynamic, innovative globalInternet.
I also believe it is essential that we take steps to strengthenour cybersecurity and ensure that we are guarding against threatsto our vital information systems and critical infrastructure, allwhile preserving Americans’ privacy, data confidentiality, andcivil liberties and recognizing the civilian nature ofcyberspace.
10. Ocean Health
Scientists estimate that 75 percent of the world’s fisheriesare in serious decline, habitats like coral reefs are threatened,and large areas of ocean and coastlines are polluted. What roleshould the federal government play domestically and through foreignpolicy to protect the environmental health and economic vitality ofthe oceans?
I am committed to ensuring that our nation’s vast naturalresources are used responsibly, and that we maintain healthy oceansand coasts. By establishing a National Ocean Policy, I made it apriority of the federal government to ensure a proactive approachto improving the conservation of the ocean, our coasts, and theGreat Lakes.
We are directing additional funding to Gulf Coast restoration tobring back the fisheries and coastal ecosystems which are stillrecovering in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill. Wekicked off the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the largestinvestment in the Great Lakes in two decades, which is targetingecological problems such as invasive species, toxic hot spots, andpollution runoff.
We are cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, establishing a “pollutiondiet” for the Bay that will help restore the natural habitat forfish and other wildlife. We have also invested over $1.4 billion inEverglades’ restoration, helping restore tens of thousands of acreswhich will serve as a sanctuary for native Florida plants andwildlife. We have created or enhanced more than 540 public coastalrecreation areas, protected more than 54,000 acres of coastlinesand restored over 5,200 acres of coastal habitat.
We are also investing more in monitoring our fishing stock incoastal areas so we have the most accurate data possible on thehealth of our fisheries. These are significant steps that arehelping us improve the health of our oceans and build more robustfisheries.
11. Science in Public Policy
We live in an era when science and technology affect everyaspect of life and society, and so must be included inwell-informed public policy decisions. How will you ensure thatpolicy and regulatory decisions are fully informed by the bestavailable scientific and technical information, and that the publicis able to evaluate the basis of these policy decisions?
Whether it’s improving our health or harnessing clean energy,protecting our security or succeeding in the global economy, ourfuture depends on reaffirming America’s role as the world’s engineof scientific discovery and technological innovation. Our policiesshould be based on the best science available and developed withtransparency and public participation.
Soon after taking office, I directed the White House Office ofScience and Technology Policy to ensure that our policies reflectwhat science tells us without distortion or manipulation. Weappointed scientific advisors based on their credentials andexperience, not their politics or ideology. I also have insistedthat we be open and honest with the American people about thescience behind our decisions.
During my presidency, I have been working to improvetransparency and public participation – for instance, by expandingpublic disclosure of pollution, compliance, and other regulatoryinformation to more efficiently provide the public with informationnecessary to participate in key environmental decisions. Over thenext four years, I will continue seeking new ways to makescientific information more transparent and readily available tothe public.
Only by ensuring that scientific data is never distorted orconcealed to serve a political agenda, making scientific decisionsbased on facts, not ideology, and including the public in ourdecision making process will we harness the power of science toachieve our goals – to preserve our environment and protect ournational security; to create the jobs of the future, and livelonger, healthier lives.
The United States is currently in a major discussion overour national goals in space. What should America’s spaceexploration and utilization goals be in the 21st century and whatsteps should the government take to help achieve them?
We’re fortunate to be part of a society that can reach beyondour planet and explore frontiers that were only imagined by ourancestors. I am committed to protecting these critical investmentsin science and technology and pursuing an ambitious new directionfor NASA that lays the groundwork for a sustainable program ofexploration and innovation.
We have extended the life of the International Space Station,forwarding efforts to foster international cooperation in space,supporting the growth of America’s commercial space industry, andtaking on our pressing scientific challenges while continuing thenation’s commitment to robust human space exploration, science, andaeronautics programs.
From investing in research on advances in spaceflighttechnology, to expanding our commitment to an education system thatprepares our students for space and science achievements, I amcommitted to strengthening the base for America’s next generationof spaceflight. No other country can match our capabilities inEarth observation from space. In robotic space exploration, too,nobody else comes close. And I intend to keep it that way.
Two years ago I set a goal of sending humans farther into spacethan we have ever been — to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the2030s. We will continue to operate the Space Station until at least2020 and perhaps beyond.
When our Orion deep space crew vehicle takes its first testflight in 2014, it will travel farther into space than anyspacecraft designed for humans has flown in the 40 years since ourastronauts returned from the moon. That is progress.
The recent landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars was a greatleadership moment for our nation and a sign of the continuedstrength of NASA’s many programs in science, aeronautics and humanspaceflight. It’s also important to remember that the $2.5 billioninvestment made in this project was not spent on Mars, but righthere on Earth, supporting more than 7,000 jobs in at least 31states.
My administration has put a big focus on improving science andtechnology, engineering and math education. And this is the kind ofthing that inspires kids across the country. They’re telling theirmoms and dads they want to be part of a Mars mission — maybe eventhe first person to walk on Mars. That’s inspiring. Thisexciting work will lead us to important new discoveries and take usto destinations we would have never visited.
13. Critical Natural Resources
Supply upply shortages of natural resources affecteconomic growth, quality of life, and national security; forexample China currently produces 97% of rare earth elements neededfor advanced electronics. What steps should the federal governmenttake to ensure the quality and availability of critical naturalresources?
Rare earth elements and other critical minerals are used byAmerican manufacturers to make high-tech products like the advancedbatteries that power everything from hybrid cars to cell phones. Mysupport for the development alternatives to rare earth materials ishelping to ensure we have the materials necessary to propel ourhigh-technology economy forward.
Being able to manufacture competitive products in America is tooimportant for us to stand by and do nothing. We’ve got to takecontrol of our energy future, and we can’t let the energy industrytake root in other countries because they are allowed to break therules. That’s why we have joined with Japan and some of ourEuropean allies to bring a trade case against China for imposingrestrictions on their exports of rare earth materials.
Part of our strategy is also to use the natural resources wehave more efficiently, so we are less reliant on other countries inthe first place. To achieve that, I have invested in a series ofinnovative projects to decrease our reliance on rare earth materialand unveiled a federal strategy to promote U.S.-based electronicsrecycling to keep American manufactures competitive.
We are also launching a new, multidisciplinary energy innovationresearch “hub” to advance our leadership in manufacturing productsthat rely on rare earth materials and other critical materials. Thehub — which will bring together scientists, materials specialists,and others – will aim to develop efficiencies and alternatives thatreduce the amount of rare earths that we need as well as developstrategies to ensure that we have a reliable supply of rare earthsand other critical materials going forward.
14. Vaccination and public health
Vaccination campaigns against preventable diseases such asmeasles, polio and whooping cough depend on widespreadparticipation to be effective, but in some communities vaccinationrates have fallen off sharply. What actions would you support toenforce vaccinations in the interest of public health, and in whatcircumstances should exemptions be allowed?
Today, there are too many Americans who do not get thepreventive health care services they need to stay healthy. Manypeople put off preventive care because the deductibles and copaysare too expensive. That’s why I fought for the Affordable Care Act,which will make sure all Americans have access to qualitypreventive health care services.
Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans can now get vitalpreventive services – including the full suite of routine vaccinesrecommend by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices -with no co-pay or deductible. The health care law also created thePrevention and Public Health Fund, an investment in promotingwellness, preventing disease, and investing in public healthinfrastructure across the country.
It will help us transform our health care system from a focus onsickness and disease to a focus on prevention and wellness. The lawalso proves authority to states to purchase adult vaccines withstate funds at federally-negotiated prices, supporting statevaccination programs. Ultimately, I believe the health care law isa significant step forward in ensuring that every American hasaccess to the preventive care and immunizations that they need tostay healthy.