Here is a summary of how Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Republican John McCain stand on selected science and technology issues, as compiled by the staff of the Wisconsin Technology Council based on candidate statements, web site postings and news accounts.
Hillary Clinton has proposed a $50 billion, 10-year Strategic Energy Fund to focus on research, development, and deployment of renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean coal technology, ethanol and other homegrown biofuels. She would fund the initiative by eliminating oil company tax breaks and cutting subsidies for oil and gas exploration. She supports a ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
She would also establish a Renewable Energy Standard to require that 25 percent of the nation’s electricity comes from wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and other renewable sources by 2025. To spur increased production of ethanol and other renewable fuels, Clinton would raise the national renewable fuels goal from the current level of 7.5 billion gallons by 2012 to 36 billion gallons annually by 2022 and to 60 billion gallons by 2030.
She supports a doubling of federal investment in basic energy research, including funding for an ARPA-E, a new research agency modeled on the successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Barack Obama has proposed a “cap-and-trade” system to cut carbon emissions by 10 percent by 2020. He has called for an annual 4 percent rise in fuel standards and increased research into nuclear power. He says 20 percent of U.S. energy needs should be met by renewable resources by 2020.
Obama has said he would invest $150 billion over 10 years in clean energy, double energy-related R&D funding by the federal government, “convert our manufacturing centers into clean technology centers,” and support incentives for venture capital funds to speed deployment of clean technologies.
Obama has called for the production of 60 billion gallons of American-grown biofuels by 2030, including cellulosic ethanol derived from sources such as forests and advanced biodiesel. He would end subsidies to the oil and gas industries “to help level the playing field for biofuels producers.” To curb global warming, Obama supports a hard cap on all carbon emissions – an 80 percent reduction by 2050.
John McCain has called for a national energy strategy to counter “our over-reliance on imported oil from petro-dictators.” He supports expanding and diversifying the nation’s alternative and renewable energy portfolio, with the markets taking an important lead in defining ultimate winners and losers.
McCain has cited “promising alternatives” to oil, including alcohol fuels made from corn, sugar, switchgrass and many other sources, fuel cells, biodiesel derived from waste products, natural gas, and other technologies. Rather than subsidize every alternative, McCain has said, he supports “the development of infrastructure and markets necessary for these products, and let consumers choose the winners.”
McCain supports continued research and investment in nuclear energy; he voted to ban drilling in ANWR. McCain also supports a cap-and-trade system for carbon credits.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Hillary Clinton has proposed increasing the basic research budgets at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense by 50 percent over 10 years. She would require that federal research agencies set aside at least 8 percent of their research budgets for discretionary funding of so-called “high-risk” research. Clinton would boost support for multi-disciplinary research in biotech, information technology and nanotechnology.
Clinton would increase the National Institutes of Health budget by 50 percent over five years and aim to double it over 10 years.
Clinton wants to overhaul the federal R&D tax credit “to make the U.S. a more attractive location for high-paying jobs,” and would make permanent a 20 percent incremental tax credit to encourage the building of R&D facilities.
Clinton would direct federal agencies to award prizes in order to accomplish specific innovation goals. She would triple the number of NSF fellowships and increase the size of each award by 33 percent.
Barack Obama supports the doubling of federal funding for basic research, and making the federal R&D tax credit permanent. He believes Congress needs to “update and reform” copyright and patent systems and laws. Obama has also stressed the need to expand broadband access.
“Barack Obama believes that America should lead the world in broadband penetration and Internet access,” his web site said. “As a country, we have ensured that every American has access to telephone service and electricity, regardless of economic status, and Obama will do likewise for broadband Internet access. Full broadband penetration can enrich democratic discourse, enhance competition, provide economic growth, and bring significant consumer benefits.”
Obama would extend the federal Production Tax Credit, which is used by American farmers and investors to increase renewable energy production and create jobs.
Obama also proposes that a CTO position be created at the executive level to oversee technology and information officers at the various federal agencies.
“Over the last 30 years, funding for the sciences has declined as a percentage of GDP,” Obama said. “If we want an innovation economy, then we have to invest in our future innovators – by doubling federal funding of basic research over the next five years, training 100,000 more engineers and scientists over the next four years, or providing new research grants to the most outstanding early career researchers in the country. The price tag is $42 billion over five years.”
John McCain would make permanent the income and investment tax cuts instituted by President Bush. He would allow first-year deduction, or “expensing,” for equipment and technology investments. McCain would cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent to aid U.S. competitiveness.
He believes lower taxes on dividends and capital gains promote savings while channeling investment dollars to innovative, high-value uses. McCain would seek to ban Internet taxes and new taxes on cell phones.
McCain describes himself as “a leader in keeping the Internet free of taxes.” As president, he has said, McCain will seek “a permanent ban on taxes that threaten this engine of economic growth and prosperity.”
McCain is calling for a permanent R&D tax credit “to keep America competitive and provide a stable environment for entrepreneurs.” He also supports more H-1B visas to attract tech-based workers to the United States.
Under health care, McCain’s web site includes a long list of positions, including this one: “Dedicate federal research on the basis of sound science resulting in greater focus on care and cure of chronic disease.” He has not supported a specific increase in NIH funding. However, he did vote for the 2007 America COMPETES Act (H.R. 2272), which supports significant funding increases for the NSF, DOE Office of Science and other federal research agencies as well as increased support for math and science education.
STEM EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE
Hillary Clinton would create new fellowships at the NSF for math and science professionals interested in becoming teachers in high-need schools. She would also support initiatives to bring more women and minorities into STEM professions.
“Other nations are increasingly investing in their innovation infrastructure, positioning themselves to challenge our leadership,” Clinton web site said. “In the last 12 years, China has doubled the percentage of GDP dedicated to R&D, and over that same period GDP itself doubled. Also, our share of the world’s scientists and engineers has declined, and too few American college students are preparing themselves for these careers. Fewer than 20 percent of American undergraduates are earning degrees in science or engineering, compared with more than 50 percent in China. And, we now rank 25th in broadband deployment.”
Barack Obama has said he would work to increase the number of graduate students and undergrads pursuing degrees in STEM fields by establishing a Teaching Service Scholarship program for recruiting math, science and technology degree graduates. Obama would also invest in science education R&D to determine what types of curriculum and instruction work best.
He has proposed an $18 billion increase in spending for all federal education programs.
In addition, Obama’s platform includes: Establishing a Teaching Service Scholarship program for recruiting math, science and technology degree graduates and expanding access to computers and broadband connections in public schools.
John McCain has noted that “Innovation is fueled by risk capital, skilled workers, incentives for entrepreneurs, a light regulatory framework, and open access to markets.” He has not issued a specific position on STEM education, preferring to leave the setting of such standards to the states. In 1989, he co-sponsored the federal Educational Excellence Act to recognize and reward schools, teachers, and students for their outstanding achievements; enhance parental choice; and encourage the study of science, mathematics, and engineering.
McCain seeks high-speed Internet access for every school, but suggested requiring filtering software for all public school and library computers as a way to keep children from potentially harmful Internet sites.
“John McCain understands that globalization will not automatically benefit every American,” his web site said. “We must prepare the next generation of workers by making American education worthy of the promise we make to our children and ourselves. We must be a nation committed to competitiveness and opportunity. We must fight for the ability of all students to have access to any school of demonstrated excellence. We must place parents and children at the center of the education process, empowering parents by greatly expanding the ability of parents to choose among schools for their children.”
STEM CELL RESEARCH
Hillary Clinton has promised to rescind President Bush’s ban on embryonic stem cell research and would promote stem cell research that complies with ethical standards.
Barack Obama supports rescinding President Bush’s ban on embryonic stem cell research and expanding federal funding for such research.
John McCain supports federal funding for human embryonic stem-cell research on embryos that would otherwise be discarded or perpetually frozen. He has stated that he believes that embryonic stem cell research will continue whether or not the United States sanctions it, and so it would be the wisest course of action to support it to the extent that the United States would be able to regulate and monitor the usage.