The U.S. must break its "addiction to oil," increase federal spending on basic science research, and train more math and science teachers to improve the nation's competitiveness, President George W. Bush told Congress Tuesday night in his State of the Union Address.
With the price of oil close to $70 a barrel, Bush called on lawmakers to boost research into "cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks or switchgrass." The goal, he said, is to make fuel ethanol "practical and competitive" within six years. "Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another goal: to replace more than 75% of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."
Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete V. Dominici (R-N.M.) endorsed the focus on alternative energy, saying, "We aren't going to displace foreign oil next year, but the President is moving us the right direction and he's picked up the pace." In the Democrats' response to Bush's speech, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine called for stronger conservation measures.
Bush also announced the American Competitiveness Initiative, which the White House said would commit $50 billion in new federal funding over 10 years for basic research programs in the physical sciences and engineering. The funding, Bush said, will "support the work of America's most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources."
The President urged Congress to make permanent the R&D tax credit to encourage bolder private-sector initiatives in technology, and he proposed training 70,000 high school teachers over five years to lead advanced placement courses in math and science.
"The President is doing exactly the right thing" in focusing on research and education in science, math, and engineering, said House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.). "The nation needs new investments and new approaches in research and education if we are to remain competitive and prosperous."