In a country reeling from bad economic news and even worse partisan battling in Congress, US President Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union message last night.
His 71-minute speech to both houses of Congress barely mentioned science. This is par for the course for most US presidents but something of an omission for Obama, who has rhapsodized before about the importance of science and innovation in stimulating economic growth. The few science mentions in the speech included:
– A pledge for “continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies”, with a brief plea to Congress to pass “a comprehensive energy and climate bill”.
– A vague reference to “a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants”. No nuclear plant has been built in the United States for more than 30 years, and the Obama administration has stripped all funding for the only proposed long-term storage site for nuclear waste in the country, at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
– Mention of the administration’s outreach to the Muslim world on science and technology initiatives, including sending high-profile science envoys recently to countries such as Egypt and Indonesia.
– A shout-out to the science funding in last year’s economic stimulus package. The question now is how long-term science budgets will fare under Obama. On Monday, he is scheduled to release his proposed budget request for fiscal year 2011 — which could either continue the increases in basic science agencies from last year, or cut them as part of his proposed freeze on discretionary funding.
Image: Obama earlier this month / White House photo