President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney both support improving education and achieving energy independence but disagree over how to do so. The candidates affirmed their positions on the two issues at the first presidential debate, held on Oct. 3 in Denver. The hour-and-a-half-long event focused mainly on economics, the federal deficit, taxes, health care, and Medicare.
Obama underscored his Race to the Top education program, which he said has led to reforms in 46 states, higher standards, and improved teacher training. He also cited his Administration’s goal of hiring 100,000 new math and science teachers, as well as his plan to create 2 million more slots for students in community colleges and to ensure that college tuition remains low.
Romney, too, emphasized the need to improve U.S. schools. Although he supported the portions of Obama’s program that provide funding to states and school districts, he said his education program would strive to offer funding directly to students and parents. He also criticized redundancy in federal government training programs, saying some 47 training programs in eight agencies carried too much overhead.
On energy, both Obama and Romney stressed support for development of fossil-fuel resources, including drilling and production of oil and gas. Obama emphasized that increased drilling and production had taken place during his Administration but underscored the need for government investments in “energy sources of the future—like wind and solar and biofuels.”
Although Romney agreed that oil and gas production was up during the Obama Administration, he credited it to industry’s efforts, not the President’s actions. A Romney Administration, he said, would greatly increase fossil-fuel production; would double permits for drilling on federal lands, including offshore and in Alaska; and would build the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The candidates’ remarks on education and energy during the debate echo their responses to C&EN’s science policy questions (see page 32). Two other presidential debates and one vice presidential debate will take place this month. It is unlikely that basic science policy questions will be addressed at any of these events.