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Volume 90 Issue 41 | pp. 32-36
Issue Date: October 8, 2012 | Web Date: October 4, 2012

Science In The Election

Presidential candidates Obama and Romney talk about science policy issues facing the U.S.
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Presidential election
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Credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom
Photo of U.S. President Barack Obama speaking during a campaign rally at the Kent State University on September 26, 2012 in Kent, Ohio.
 
Credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom
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Credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom
Photo of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speakimg during a campaign rally at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver, Colorado, on October 1, 2012.
 
Credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom

With the presidential election less than a month away, President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney are each working hard to convince voters that they are the better choice to lead the country for the next four years.

Live debates between the two candidates are already under way—the first on domestic policy took place last week (see page 10). And although two other debates are scheduled for later this month, it is unlikely that they will include any significant discussion of science policy issues.

To help fill this gap, C&EN asked each candidate eight questions. Four responses from Obama and Romney—on research support, national security, open access, and scientific integrity—appear in this print story in their entirety so their responses are briefly discussed. The remaining four answers—on energy, climate change, innovation, and education—are summarized in more detail here. All eight questions and responses are available in their entirety at C&EN Online.

The two candidates generally agree that support for basic research is important, and each pledges to make it a priority even in the current tight economic environment.

Both candidates were asked what role science and technology should play in national security. Obama says that, if reelected, he plans to “continue to invest in defense research to develop breakthrough science that can be quickly converted into new capabilities for our security.” Romney says that one of his top priorities if he wins will be to “restore America’s military and reverse the large defense cuts that have taken such a toll on the defense science and technology base.”

Open access to journal articles resulting from federally funded research is something both candidates say is important; however, they differ slightly on how open such access should be. “Increased public access to federal research will promote advances in science and technology, improve coordination of federal investments across agencies, and promote the diffusion of technology across the economy,” Obama says. But Romney adds a caveat: A U.S. policy must “strike a balance between guaranteeing the widest possible circulation of new ideas and supporting the business models of the private and nonprofit institutions that facilitate this dissemination.”

On the topic of scientific integrity, Obama is clear that “our policies should be based on the best science available and developed with transparency and public participation.” Romney’s response is similar, but he notes that economics also plays a role in policy development. “In a Romney Administration, sound science will inform sound policy decisions, and the costs and benefits of regulations will be properly weighed in that process,” Romney says.

ENERGY

One area of contrast is energy policy. The President has made it clear that if he’s reelected, he will continue to support development of alternative energy sources.

“Since taking office, I have supported an all-of-the-above energy approach. This will allow us to take control of our energy future, one where we safely and responsibly develop America’s many energy resources—including natural gas, wind, solar, oil, clean coal, and biofuels—while investing in clean energy and increasing fuel efficiency standards to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Obama explains in his response to C&EN.

The President continues: “I know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the global economy in the 21st century. That’s why I have made the largest investment in clean energy and energy efficiency in American history and proposed an ambitious Clean Energy Standard to generate 80% of our electricity from clean energy sources like wind, solar, clean coal, and natural gas by 2035.”

And on natural gas, where the U.S. has regained its position as top global producer, he says, “My Administration is promoting the safe, responsible development of America’s near-100-year supply of natural gas that will help support more than 600,000 jobs.”

Because of this combination of his Administration’s policies, Obama adds, “we are positioning ourselves to have cleaner and cheaper sources of fuel that make us more energy secure and position the U.S. as a world leader in the clean energy economy.”

Romney would take a slightly different approach. He says he will focus on increasing domestic energy production mainly from fossil fuels, although he also says he supports alternative energy.

“While President Obama has described his own energy policy as a ‘hodgepodge,’ sent billions of taxpayer dollars to green energy projects run by political cronies, rejected the Keystone XL pipeline as not in ‘the national interest,’ and sought repeatedly to stall development of America’s domestic resources, my path forward would establish America as an energy superpower in the 21st century,” Romney says.

To achieve this status, he lays out a six-part plan. “First, I will empower states to control onshore energy development, including on federal lands within their borders. Second, I will open offshore areas to development. Third, I will pursue a ‘North American Energy Partnership’ so that America can benefit from the resources of its neighbors. Fourth, I will ensure accurate assessment of the nation’s energy resources by updating decades-old surveys that do not reflect modern technological capabilities. Fifth, I will restore transparency and fairness to permitting and regulation. And sixth, I will facilitate private-sector-led development of new energy technologies.

“Throughout this agenda, I remain committed to implementing and enforcing strong environmental protections that ensure all energy development activity is conducted in a safe and responsible manner,” Romney states. “But whereas President Obama has used environmental regulation as an excuse to block the development of resources and the construction of infrastructure, I will pursue a course that designs regulation not to stifle energy production but instead to facilitate responsible use of all energy sources—from oil and coal and natural gas, to nuclear and hydropower and biofuels, to wind and solar. Energy development, economic growth, and environmental protection can go hand in hand if the government focuses on transparency and fairness instead of seeking to pick winners and repay political favors.”

CLIMATE CHANGE

Closely linked to energy is climate change. While both candidates agree that climate change is happening and humans are contributing to it, they differ on the extent to which it is happening and what, if any, actions are needed.

“I am not a scientist myself,” Romney says, “but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue—on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk—and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.”

Romney continues, “the science is an input to the public policy decision; it does not dictate a particular policy response.” He goes on to underscore the international nature of global warming: “The reality is that the problem is called Global Warming, not America Warming.”

For this reason, Romney says he opposes a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system that would “handicap the American economy and drive manufacturing jobs away.

“So I believe we should pursue what I call a ‘No Regrets’ policy—steps that will lead to lower emissions, but that will benefit America regardless of whether the risks of global warming materialize and regardless of whether other nations take effective action,” he explains.

Romney does support federal funding for research on efficient, low-emissions technologies and streamlining the regulatory framework for deploying new energy technologies, citing nuclear power as one such technology. “These steps will strengthen American industry, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and produce the economically attractive technologies that developing nations must have access to if they are to achieve the reductions in their own emissions that will be necessary to address what is a global issue,” he says.

Obama, on the other hand, clearly believes climate change is happening and action is needed now to address it. “Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we must meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits,” he says.

“Since taking office, I have established historic fuel efficiency standards that are limiting greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history. My Administration has made unprecedented investments in clean energy, proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants, and helped lower carbon emissions within the federal government,” Obama points out. He adds that during his time in office the U.S. has reduced the average number of barrels of oil imported every day. As a result, he continues, the nation’s dependence 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 with all major developed and developing nations,” Obama says. “There is still more to be done to address this global problem. I will continue efforts to reduce our dependence on oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating an economy built to last.”

INNOVATION

The two candidates’ positions on innovation are more in line with one another. Both agree that innovation is important to a strong economy; however, Romney provides a much longer and more detailed response to this question. This lengthy response by the challenger is not unexpected because, unlike the President, he has no national record of support for innovation.

Specifically, the President has made the support of innovation an important part of his science policy since taking office, and in his response to C&EN’s question on innovation, he makes it clear that he plans to continue to “create an environment where invention, innovation, and industry can flourish.

“I am committed to doubling funding for key research agencies to support scientists and entrepreneurs, so that we can preserve America’s place as the world leader in innovation and strengthen U.S. leadership in the 21st century’s high-tech knowledge-based economy,” Obama states.

Romney also says innovation is important for economic growth, job creation, and global competitiveness. “The promotion of innovation will begin on Day One, with efforts to simplify the corporate tax code, reform job retraining programs, reduce regulatory burdens, and protect American intellectual property around the world,” he says.

The former governor says his plans to change immigration policy; tax policy, including making the R&D tax credit permanent; regulation; and trade are all part of his innovation policy.

“We must reform America’s legal immigration system to attract and retain the best and the brightest, and equip more Americans with the skills to succeed,” Romney explains. “I will raise visa caps for highly skilled foreign workers, offer permanent residence to foreign students graduating with advanced degrees in relevant fields, and restructure government retraining programs to empower individual workers and welcome private-sector participation.”

He takes a tough stand on regulations, however. “We must reduce the power of unaccountable regulators by requiring that all major regulations receive congressional approval and by imposing a regulatory cap that prevents the addition of new regulatory costs. In a Romney Administration, agencies will have to limit the costs they are imposing on society and recognize that their job is to streamline and reduce burdens, not to add new ones,” he explains.

Opening new trade markets is also on the would-do list for Romney. One step would be creating a “Reagan Economic Zone” that would bring together nations committed to principles of free enterprise. Romney also states that he would “confront” nations like China that “steal intellectual property from American innovators while closing off American access to their markets.”

“As President, I will focus government resources on research programs that advance the development of knowledge, and on technologies with widespread application and potential to serve as the foundation for private-sector innovation and commercialization,” Romney says. He underscores that he opposes programs that “pick winners and losers” or make “politically prioritized investments.”

EDUCATION

Providing a foundation for innovation to occur is something both candidates address—again, Romney’s response is more detailed as he doesn’t have a national record of action in this area, whereas the President does. Core to this foundation, they both agree, is education, and both advocate taking action to bolster the K–12 education system.

For Obama, improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education requires supporting teachers. “To provide a complete education we must strengthen STEM education by increasing STEM literacy so all students can think critically; improve the quality of science and math teaching so American students are no longer outperformed by those in other nations; and expand STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and minorities,” Obama says.

To prepare children to become highly skilled workers and innovators, he notes that his Administration has set the goal of recruiting 100,000 science and math teachers over the next decade. These teachers in turn will meet the urgent need to train 1 million additional STEM graduates over the next decade.

During his tenure as President, he notes, his Administration also launched the “Educate to Innovate” campaign to bring business leaders, foundations, nonprofits, and professional societies together to improve STEM teaching and learning. Most recently, he announced the national STEM Master Teachers Corps to recognize outstanding STEM teachers, strengthen STEM education, and boost U.S. global competitiveness.

“These investments would improve the quality of STEM education at all levels, ensuring the next generation of Americans has the tools to out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world,” Obama explains.

Romney proposes that the government should reform the education system to better prepare students for the workforce. Specifically, he explains that the system needs to put the interest of parents and students ahead of special interests, tie federal funding to reforms that expand parents’ choice, invest in innovation, and reward teacher performance. He also says he’d ensure that higher education is affordable and diverse enough to give students a wide range of skills.

Romney makes it clear that he doesn’t believe that simply increasing federal education funding will help. “Higher spending rarely correlates with better results,” he explains. Instead, he pushes for education reforms.

“Unfortunately, rather than embracing reform and innovation, America remains gridlocked in an antiquated system controlled to a disturbing degree by the unions representing teachers,” he states. “The teachers unions spend millions of dollars to influence the debate in favor of the entrenched interests of adults, not the students our system should serve.”

The candidates have also addressed 14 questions from Science Debate, a grassroots initiative spearheaded by scientists and other concerned citizens in collaboration with a group of professional societies including the American Chemical Society, which publishes C&EN. Although a subset of C&EN’s questions overlap with this group’s questions, Science Debate 2012 provides additional insight into the candidates’ standing on science issues. These questions and answers can be viewed at www.sciencedebate.org/debate12.

Understanding the position of the presidential candidates on science policy issues may not sway voters—a likely reason why such questions are not expected to make it into the debates—but it does provide insight into how the successful candidate might react when confronted with the tough problems facing the country.



Research

With the increased pressure to rein in federal spending, what priority would you give to investment in basic research in upcoming budgets? What priority would you give applied research?

OBAMA: I strongly support investments in research and development that help spur American innovation and proposed a goal that, as a country, we invest more than 3% of our [gross domestic product] in public and private research and development—exceeding the level achieved at the height of the space race. That’s why, under the [American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009], my Administration enacted the largest research and development increase in our nation’s history. Through the Recovery Act, my Administration committed over $100 billion to support groundbreaking innovation with investments in energy, basic research, education and training, advanced vehicle technology, health [information technology] and health research, high-speed rail, smart grid, and information technology. Of these funds, we made a $90 billion investment in clean energy that will produce as much as $150 billion in clean energy projects. In fact, the Recovery Act made the largest single investment in clean energy in American history. And our investments in energy not only focus on research, but on the deployment of these new technologies.

We have invested highly in important research being done to improve the health and wellness of all Americans so that we can continue to unravel clues to treating or preventing some of life’s most daunting and debilitating diseases, develop powerful new medicines, and even define strategies that will prevent disease from occurring in the first place. We have also made critical investments in research and development to bolster our national security and defense. And my budget continues to support making permanent the R&D tax credit, which would allow businesses the ability to invest and grow their organizations. While making tough choices, we will continue to prioritize investments in research to ensure that our country remains a global leader and that Americans can remain innovators, working to better their lives and the lives around them.

ROMNEY: I am a strong supporter of federally funded research, and continued funding would be a top priority in my budget. The answer to spending constraints is not to cut back on crucial investments in America’s future, but rather to spend money more wisely. For instance, President Obama spent $90 billion in stimulus dollars in a failed attempt to promote his green energy agenda. That same spending could have funded the nation’s energy research programs at the level recommended in a recent Harvard University study for nearly 20 years.

Good public policy must also ensure that federal research is being amplified in the private sector, and that major breakthroughs are able to make the leap from the laboratory to the marketplace. Unfortunately, President Obama has pursued policies across a range of fields that will have the opposite effect. For instance, Obamacare imposes an excise tax on the revenue of medical device companies that is already driving jobs and investment overseas. Meanwhile, the [Food & Drug Administration’s] slow and opaque approval process is rated less than one-fourth as effective as its European counterpart by medical technology companies. Robust [National Institutes of Health] funding will only have its desired effect if paired with sensible policies that facilitate medical innovation more broadly.



Open Access

Should the government require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research?

ROMNEY: The free flow of information is crucial not only to our democracy and our economy, but also to the continued advancement of scientific knowledge. I am a strong supporter of government funding for research for the very reason that the resulting breakthroughs benefit society broadly—something that can happen only if those breakthroughs are shared. At the same time, I recognize that journals themselves play an important role in the scientific process and that they must recoup their own costs. We must therefore strike a balance between guaranteeing the widest possible circulation of new ideas and supporting the business models of the private and nonprofit institutions that facilitate this dissemination.

OBAMA: On my first day in office, I signed a presidential memorandum committing my Administration to an unprecedented level of openness in government and the rapid disclosure of one of our nation’s great assets—information. I signed a law making the National Institutes of Health’s public access requirement permanent. And my Administration is working toward widespread public access to federal unclassified research. Increased public access to federal research will promote advances in science and technology, improve coordination of federal investments across agencies, and promote the diffusion of technology across the economy.



Scientific Integrity

Many government scientists report political interference in their jobs. Is it acceptable for elected or appointed officials to withhold or alter scientific reports if they conflict with their own views? How will you balance scientific information with politics and personal beliefs in your decision making?

OBAMA: Whether it’s improving our health or harnessing clean energy, protecting our security or succeeding in the global economy, our future depends on reaffirming America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation. Our policies should be based on the best science available and developed with transparency and public participation.

Soon after taking office, I directed the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy to ensure that our policies reflect what science tells us without distortion or manipulation. We appointed scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology. I also have insisted that we be open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions.

During my presidency, I have been working to improve transparency and public participation—for instance, by expanding public disclosure of pollution, compliance, and other regulatory information to more efficiently provide the public with information necessary to participate in key environmental decisions. Over the next four years, I will continue seeking new ways to make scientific information more transparent and readily available to the public.

Only by ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda, making scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology, and including the public in our decision-making process will we harness the power of science to achieve our goals—to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives.

ROMNEY: Sound science is crucial to good public policy and, as the question highlights, it is important not only to use sound science in the regulatory process but also to do so in a transparent manner that allows for public participation and evaluation. I will ensure that the best available scientific and technical information guides decision making in my Administration, and avoid the manipulation of science for political gain.

Unfortunately, President Obama has repeatedly manipulated technical data to support a regulatory agenda guided by politics rather than science. For example, his “Utility MACT” rule is purportedly aimed at reducing mercury pollution, yet the [Environmental Protection Agency] estimates that the rule will cost $10 billion to reduce mercury pollution by only $6 million (with an “m”). This has not stopped the President from trumpeting the rule as “cost-effective” and “common sense,” while claiming it will “prevent thousands of premature deaths.” The trick? Making the rule so expensive that it will bankrupt the coal industry, and then claiming that the elimination of that industry (and its hundreds of thousands of jobs) would have significant benefits.

In a Romney Administration, sound science will inform sound policy decisions, and the costs and benefits of regulations will be properly weighed in that process. I will pursue legislative reforms to ensure that regulators are always taking cost into account when they promulgate new rules. And I will establish a regulatory cap, so that agencies spend as much time repealing and streamlining outdated regulations as they spend imposing new ones.



National Security

Science and technology are at the core of national security like never before. How can science and technology best be used to ensure national security, and in which research areas should the federal government put its focus?

ROMNEY: American soldiers step onto the battlefield with the most advanced equipment in the world. It is no accident that most of their gear was built and developed right here in the USA. We have the best defense research and development shops in the world. I’d like our Armed Forces to be so strong that no one thinks of testing them. But to do that, we have to stay ahead of the curve technologically. America has been blessed with the protection of two large oceans. But now we must contend with new threats that skip over geography, challenges like cybersecurity, missile defense, and the need to protect our satellites in orbit. And as our economy becomes more globalized, protecting avenues of commerce like sea lanes, space, and cyberspace becomes that much more important.

We must also remember that innovation on the field of national security has benefits in the civilian world. How many people have a smart phone or tablet today? Digital photography and GPS, two of the great features on these devices, came from inventions originally designed for military use. Civilian air travel was made possible by military advancements in aerospace and radar. And of course, the first instance of networked computers, which later evolved into the Internet, came from a research project working to find a better way for America’s nuclear forces to communicate with each other. Unfortunately, we’ve seen defense R&D take a big hit during these past four years. One of my top priorities when I take office will be to restore America’s military and reverse the large defense cuts that have taken such a toll on the defense science and technology base.

OBAMA: Over the past four years, our nation has taken decisive steps to address today’s dangers from terrorism and to prevent future nuclear proliferation. We are also working to address emerging challenges from cyber and biological threats to climate change and transnational crime. I will continue to invest in defense research to develop breakthrough science that can be quickly converted into new capabilities for our security.

We have established a national strategy to address the challenges from proliferation of biological weapons or their use by terrorists. We are working with first responders and health officials to reduce the risks associated with unintentional or deliberate outbreaks of infectious disease. And we will continue to track these risks, reduce their potential for harm, and prevent and apprehend perpetrators of attacks.

Finally, cybersecurity threats represent one of the most serious threats we face. The same technologies that strengthen our economy and enrich our lives also empower wrongdoers—whether individual hackers, organized criminal groups, terrorist networks, or other nations. Defending against cyber threats requires networks that are secure, trustworthy, and resilient. I have taken unprecedented steps to defend America from cyber attacks, including creating the first military command dedicated to cybersecurity. We are exploring new ways that agencies can work collaboratively with the private sector to more effectively secure the nation’s critical infrastructure. The focus would be a small subset of infrastructure whose incapacitation from a cyber incident would have grave national security and economic consequences. And Congress still needs to act to improve the cybersecurity of the nation’s most at-risk critical infrastructure, promote information sharing between the government and the private sector, strengthen and clarify the existing federal authority, and protect the privacy and civil liberties of the American people.



Innovation

Science and technology have been responsible for half of the growth of the American economy since World War II. But several recent reports question America’s continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will you support to ensure that America remains the world leader in innovation?

OBAMA: In order to be globally competitive in the 21st century and create an American economy that is built to last, we must create an environment where invention, innovation, and industry can flourish. We can work together to create an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, and skills for American workers.

I am committed to doubling funding for key research agencies to support scientists and entrepreneurs, so that we can preserve America’s place as the world leader in innovation and strengthen U.S. leadership in the 21st century’s high-tech knowledge-based economy. To prepare American children for a future in which they can be the highly skilled American workers and innovators of tomorrow, we can recruit and prepare 100,000 science and math teachers over the next decade. These teachers will meet the urgent need to train 1 million additional science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) graduates over the next decade.

ROMNEY: Innovation is the key to economic growth and job creation, and increasingly important to American competitiveness in the global economy. Three-quarters of all U.S. economic growth, and three-quarters of the U.S. productivity advantage over other [Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development] nations, is directly attributable to innovation, and wages in innovation-intensive industries have grown more than twice as fast as other wages in recent decades.

My “Plan for a Stronger Middle Class” will rebuild the American economy on the principles of free enterprise, hard work, and innovation. The promotion of innovation will begin on Day One, with efforts to simplify the corporate tax code, reform job retraining programs, reduce regulatory burdens, and protect American intellectual property around the world.

A Growth Agenda

Over the course of my campaign, I have laid out a detailed economic plan that seeks to strengthen the American economy by empowering entrepreneurs and workers and rewarding innovation. This plan emphasizes critical structural adjustments to promote long-term growth rather than short-term fixes.

Human Capital. We must reform America’s legal immigration system to attract and retain the best and the brightest, and equip more Americans with the skills to succeed. I will raise visa caps for highly skilled foreign workers, offer permanent residence to foreign students graduating with advanced degrees in relevant fields, and restructure government retraining programs to empower individual workers and welcome private-sector participation.

Taxes. We must pursue fundamental tax reform that simplifies the tax code, broadens the tax base, and lowers tax rates. I will lower the corporate tax rate to 25%, strengthen and make permanent the R&D tax credit, and transition to a territorial tax system. I will cut individual income tax rates across the board, and maintain today’s low tax rates on investment. And I will ensure that these changes are made permanent, so that investors and entrepreneurs are not confronted with a constantly shifting set of rules.

Regulation. We must reduce the power of unaccountable regulators by requiring that all major regulations receive congressional approval and by imposing a regulatory cap that prevents the addition of new regulatory costs. In a Romney Administration, agencies will have to limit the costs they are imposing on society and recognize that their job is to streamline and reduce burdens, not to add new ones.

Trade. We must open new markets for American businesses and workers. I will create a Reagan Economic Zone encompassing nations committed to the principles of free enterprise. At the same time, I will confront nations like China that steal intellectual property from American innovators while closing off American access to their markets.

A Foundation for Innovation

The private sector is far more effective at pursuing and applying innovation than government could ever be. However, there are key areas in which government policy must strengthen the ability of the private sector to innovate effectively.

Education. America’s K–12 education system lags behind other developed nations, and while our higher education system remains the envy of the world, its costs are spiraling out of control. We must pursue genuine education reform that puts the interests of parents and students ahead of special interests and provides a chance for every child. I will take the unprecedented step of tying federal funds directly to dramatic reforms that expand parental choice, invest in innovation, and reward teachers for their results instead of their tenure. I will also ensure that students have diverse and affordable options for higher education to give them the skills they need to succeed after graduation.

Basic Research. President Obama’s misguided attempts to play the role of venture capitalist, pick winners and losers, and spend tens of billions of dollars on politically prioritized investments have been a disaster for the American taxpayer. Yet at the same time, we must never forget that the U.S. has moved forward in astonishing ways thanks to national investment in basic research and advanced technology. As President, I will focus government resources on research programs that advance the development of knowledge, and on technologies with widespread application and potential to serve as the foundation for private-sector innovation and commercialization.



Energy

Many policymakers and scientists say energy security and sustainability are major problems facing the U.S. this century. What policies would you support to meet demand for energy while ensuring an economically and environmentally sustainable future?

ROMNEY: A crucial component of my Plan for a Stronger Middle Class is to dramatically increase domestic energy production and partner closely with Canada and Mexico to achieve North American energy independence by 2020. While President Obama has described his own energy policy as a “hodgepodge,” sent billions of taxpayer dollars to green energy projects run by political cronies, rejected the Keystone XL pipeline as not in “the national interest,” and sought repeatedly to stall development of America’s domestic resources, my path forward would establish America as an energy superpower in the 21st century.

The goal of energy independence has long proved elusive, but analysts across the spectrum—energy experts, investment firms, even academics at Harvard University—now recognize that surging U.S. energy production, combined with the resources of America’s neighbors, can meet all of the continent’s energy needs within a decade. The key is to embrace these resources and open access to them.

A successful national energy strategy will have a fundamental influence on the well-being of the nation. An expansion in the affordable, reliable supply of domestically produced energy can bolster the competitiveness of virtually every industry within the country, creating millions of new jobs from coast to coast. With fewer energy imports and more exports of manufactured goods, America’s trade deficit will decline and the dollar will strengthen.

The benefits even extend beyond immediate economic growth. The lease payments, royalties, and taxes paid to the American people in return for the development of the nation’s resources can yield literally trillions of dollars in new government revenue. Lower energy prices can ease the burdens on household budgets. And all Americans can rest assured that the nation’s security is no longer beholden to unstable but oil-rich regions halfway around the world.

I have put forward a six-part plan for achieving these goals. First, I will empower states to control onshore energy development, including on federal lands within their borders. Second, I will open offshore areas to development. Third, I will pursue a “North American Energy Partnership” so that America can benefit from the resources of its neighbors. Fourth, I will ensure accurate assessment of the nation’s energy resources by updating decades-old surveys that do not reflect modern technological capabilities. Fifth, I will restore transparency and fairness to permitting and regulation. And sixth, I will facilitate private-sector-led development of new energy technologies.

Throughout this agenda, I remain committed to implementing and enforcing strong environmental protections that ensure all energy development activity is conducted in a safe and responsible manner. But whereas President Obama has used environmental regulation as an excuse to block the development of resources and the construction of infrastructure, I will pursue a course that designs regulation not to stifle energy production but instead to facilitate responsible use of all energy sources—from oil and coal and natural gas, to nuclear and hydropower and biofuels, to wind and solar. Energy development, economic growth, and environmental protection can go hand in hand if the government focuses on transparency and fairness instead of seeking to pick winners and repay political favors.

A full white paper describing my plan for energy independence is available at MittRomney.com.

OBAMA: Since taking office, I have supported an all-of-the-above energy approach. This will allow us to take control of our energy future, one where we safely and responsibly develop America’s many energy resources—including natural gas, wind, solar, oil, clean coal, and biofuels—while investing in clean energy and increasing fuel efficiency standards to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

I know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the global economy in the 21st century. That’s why I have made the largest investment in clean energy and energy efficiency in American history and proposed an ambitious Clean Energy Standard to generate 80% of our electricity from clean energy sources like wind, solar, clean coal, and natural gas by 2035. Since taking office, electricity production from wind and solar sources has already more than doubled in the U.S.

We are boosting our use of cleaner fuels, including increasing the level of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline and implementing a new Renewable Fuel Standard that will save nearly 14 billion gal of petroleum-based gasoline in 2022. America has regained its position as the world’s leading producer of natural gas. My Administration is promoting the safe, responsible development of America’s near-100-year supply of natural gas that will help support more than 600,000 jobs. Because of these actions, we are positioning ourselves to have cleaner and cheaper sources of fuel that make us more energy secure and position the U.S. as a world leader in the clean energy economy.



Climate Change

Earth’s climate is changing, and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on human-induced climate change? Which, if any, of the following measures that have been proposed to address global climate change do you support: a cap-and-trade system, a carbon tax, increased fuel-economy standards, or continued research?

OBAMA: Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we must meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits. Since taking office, I have established historic fuel efficiency standards that are limiting greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history.

My Administration has made unprecedented investments in clean energy, proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants, and helped lower carbon emissions within the federal government. Since I took office, the U.S. is importing an average of 3 million fewer barrels of oil every day, and our dependence 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 with all major developed and developing nations. There is still more to be done to address this global problem. I will continue efforts to reduce our dependence on oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating an economy built to last.

ROMNEY: I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue—on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk—and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.

Ultimately, the science is an input to the public policy decision; it does not dictate a particular policy response. President Obama has taken the view that if global warming is occurring, the American response must be to slash carbon dioxide emissions by imposing enormous costs on the U.S. economy. First he tried a massive cap-and-trade bill that would have devastated U.S. industry. When that approach was rejected by Congress, he declared his intention to pursue the same course on his own and proceeded through his [Environmental Protection Agency] to impose rules that will bankrupt the coal industry.

Nowhere along the way has the President indicated what actual results his approach would achieve—and with good reason. The reality is that the problem is called Global Warming, not America Warming. China long ago passed America as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases. Developed-world emissions have leveled off while developing world emissions continue to grow rapidly, and developing nations have no interest in accepting economic constraints to change that dynamic. In this context, the primary effect of unilateral action by the U.S. to impose costs on its own emissions will be to shift industrial activity overseas to nations whose industrial processes are more emissions-intensive and less environmentally friendly. That result may make environmentalists feel better, but it will not better the environment.

So I oppose steps like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system that would handicap the American economy and drive manufacturing jobs away, all without actually addressing the underlying problem. Economic growth and technological innovation, not economy-suppressing regulation, are the key to environmental protection in the long run. So I believe we should pursue what I call a “No Regrets” policy—steps that will lead to lower emissions, but that will benefit America regardless of whether the risks of global warming materialize and regardless of whether other nations take effective action.

For instance, I support robust government funding for research on efficient, low-emissions technologies that will maintain American leadership in emerging industries. And I believe the federal government must significantly streamline the regulatory framework for the deployment of new energy technologies, including a new wave of investment in nuclear power. These steps will strengthen American industry, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and produce the economically attractive technologies that developing nations must have access to if they are to achieve the reductions in their own emissions that will be necessary to address what is a global issue.



Education

In order for the U.S. to remain a leader in science and engineering fields, it’s important to improve K–12 science and math education. What role do you think the federal government should play in preparing K–12 students for the science- and technology-driven 21st century? Should science curriculums include faith-based perspectives?

ROMNEY: The education challenges America faces are not new. Since “A Nation at Risk” was published almost 30 years ago, our country has understood the urgent need for reform. Yet today, fewer than 75% of freshmen graduate within four years of entering high school, and far too many who do graduate require remediation when they enroll in college. In a recent survey of more than 10,000 of its graduates, Harvard Business School identified America’s K–12 education system as one of our nation’s greatest competitive weaknesses—only the dysfunction of our political system itself scored worse. Recent test results showing U.S. students lagging behind their international peers are unacceptable in their own right, and a sobering warning of a potential decline threatening our nation’s future.

Politicians have attempted to solve these problems with more spending. But while America’s spending per student is among the highest in the world, our results lag far behind. We spend nearly two-and-a-half times as much per pupil today, in real terms, as in 1970, but high school achievement and graduation rates have stagnated. Higher spending rarely correlates with better results. Even the liberal Center for American Progress acknowledged in a recent study that “the literature strongly calls into question the notion that simply investing more money in schools will result in better outcomes, and reported from its own research that most states showed “no clear relationship between spending and achievement,” even after adjusting for other factors like the cost of living.

Unfortunately, rather than embracing reform and innovation, America remains gridlocked in an antiquated system controlled to a disturbing degree by the unions representing teachers. The teachers unions spend millions of dollars to influence the debate in favor of the entrenched interests of adults, not the students our system should serve. The efforts of teachers will be central to any successful reform, but their unions have a very different agenda: opposing innovation that might disrupt the status quo while insulating even the least effective teachers from accountability. Sadly, these priorities do not correlate with better outcomes for our children. To the contrary, teachers unions are consistently on the front lines fighting against initiatives to attract and retain the best teachers, measure performance, provide accountability, or offer choices to parents.

Real change will come only when the special interests take a backseat to the interests of students. Across the nation, glimmers of success offer reason for hope. Charter school networks such as the KIPP academies, Uncommon Schools, and Aspire Public Schools are producing remarkable results with students in some of our nation’s most disadvantaged communities. Florida Virtual School and other digital education providers are using technology in new ways to personalize instruction to meet students’ needs. In Massachusetts, whose schools have led the nation since my time as governor, students’ math achievement is comparable to that of the top-performing national school systems worldwide. In our nation’s capital, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has achieved high school graduation rates above 90% in inner-city communities where barely half of public school students are earning their diplomas. These successes point the way toward genuine reform.

My agenda for K–12 education is organized around the following principles:

Promoting Choice and Innovation. Empowering parents with far greater choice over the school their child attends is a vital component of any national agenda for education reform. To start, low-income and special-needs children must be given the freedom to choose the right school and bring funding with them. These students must have access to attractive options, which will require support for the expansion of successful charter schools and for greater technology use by schools.

Ensuring High Standards and Responsibility for Results. States must have in place standards to ensure that every high school graduate is prepared for college or work and, through annual testing, hold both students and educators accountable for meeting them. The results of this testing, for both their own children and their schools, must be readily available to parents in an easy to understand format.

Recruiting and Rewarding Great Teachers. A world-class education system requires world-class teachers in every classroom. Research confirms that students assigned to more effective teachers not only learn more, but they are also less likely to have a child as a teenager and more likely to attend college. Policies for recruitment, evaluation, and compensation should treat teachers like the professionals they are, not like interchangeable widgets.

A full white paper describing my approach to education reform is available at MittRomney.com.

OBAMA: An excellent education remains the clearest, surest route to the middle class. To provide a complete education we must strengthen [science, technology, engineering, and math] education by increasing STEM literacy so all students can think critically; improve the quality of science and math teaching so American students are no longer outperformed by those in other nations; and expand STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and minorities.

Early in my Administration, I called for a national effort to move American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement; improving STEM education is a key strategy to reaching this national goal. I announced an ambitious goal of recruiting and preparing 100,000 additional STEM teachers over the next decade, with growing philanthropic and private-sector support. My “Educate to Innovate” campaign is bringing together leading businesses, foundations, nonprofits, and professional societies to improve STEM teaching and learning.

Recently, I outlined a $1 billion investment to launch a new, national STEM Master Teacher Corps that will be established in 100 sites across the country and be expanded over the next four years to support 10,000 of the best STEM teachers in the nation. These investments would improve the quality of STEM education at all levels, ensuring the next generation of Americans has the tools to out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world.

 
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