Sen. Hillary Clinton said she will sharply increase spending on energy research and basic sciences if elected president next year. She said broad spending initiatives are needed to help the United States keep pace with global competition.
Her plans include the creation of a $50 billion Strategic Energy Fund to be funded from oil company earnings and increases of 50 percent in spending on basic research by the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies, to be offset by cut-backs in other areas.
Her plan also relies heavily on awards and grants to universities and other institutions to stimulate research in new areas that could create new competitive advantages for the United States.
Clinton made her remarks at a gathering of Silicon Valley technology executives at Applied Global University in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday. Applied Global University is the training facility of Applied Materials, a supplier to the semiconductor industry.
California in general, and the technology industry in particular, was a bastion of strength for Bill Clintons presidency, and Sen. Clinton is surely hoping to build on that base.
According to a release provided by the Clinton campaign, Sen. Clinton told the executives that she has a plan to help keep the United States from losing its competitive edge. She said that her plan will encourage innovation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and upgrade the innovation infrastructure in the country.
Clinton said that a declining U.S. technical work force and a growing level of education and technological sophistication in places such as China present the United States with significant challenges in innovation. Clinton said that more than half of all Chinese college graduates have degrees in the sciences, engineering or math. She also noted that the United States ranks 25th in the world in broadband deployment.
Clinton proposed a 9-point plan to turn the United States around in its commitment to science, engineering, technology and math, and to upgrade the innovation infrastructure. The plan requires new levels of spending in a number of federal research efforts and the development of a Strategic Energy Fund. The plan includes:
- A $50 billion Strategic Energy Fund, financed by oil company earnings. This would finance energy research in an effort to develop energy independence and reduce global warming. The fund would also provide tax incentives for homeowners and businesses to improve energy efficiency and to encourage gas stations to deliver E85 ethanol.
- Increase basic research budgets by 50 percent over 10 years at the NSF (National Science Foundation), the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense. Federal agencies would be required to set aside at least 8 percent of their research funding for high-risk research. Spending also would boost support for research in biotechnology, information technology and nanotechnology.
- The NIH (National Institutes of Health) budget would be boosted by 50 percent over five years and doubled over 10 years.
- Agencies would be required to use prizes to attract non-traditional ideas in innovation.
- NSF Fellowships would be tripled, and awardees schools would get grants to pay for educational expenses.
- Clinton would introduce initiatives to bring more women and minorities into math, science and engineering.
- Broadband initiatives would be supported by the federal government by providing tax initiatives to encourage broadband deployment in underserved areas.
- Sen. Clinton would make the 20 percent tax credit for research and education permanent in order to help create more high-paying research jobs in the United States.
- Restore integrity to science policy by pumping up the Office of Science and Technology Policy and by removing politics from the offices agenda. The Office of Science and Technology Policy advises the president on science and technology issues.
Clinton provided few indications of where the funding for these initiatives might be found other than the tax on the oil companies for the Strategic Energy Fund. While a few initiatives would be the result of refocusing existing funds, a great deal of new money would need to be found. That part of her plan was not announced. In addition, Sen. Clinton did not address the future of the U.S. Space Program or the issue of visas for technology workers and scientists.
eWEEKs Chris Preimesberger contributed to this report.