In his State of the Union speech, the President talks alternative energy, math and science education, and AIDS treatment.

President Bush delivers the State of the Union address. Credit: White House photo by Eric Draper

On Tuesday night, President George W. Bush delivered his fifth State of the Union address, after what many consider the most troubled year of his presidency. While the first half of the 50-minute speech concentrated on terrorism and the war in Iraq, the second half focused on how the United States can use science to become stronger and more competitive.

In his address, Bush called for US independence from foreign oil, stronger math and science research and education, medical liability reform, responsible health care, a renewed fight against HIV and AIDS, and the prohibition of ethically-questionable medical research.

He also placed a high priority on developing alternative energy sources.

“Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy, and here we have a serious problem,” he said. “America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.”

The President announced what he dubbed the Advanced Energy Initiative, a 22% increase in federal alternative energy research. The increased funding would, primarily, go towards technological breakthroughs in powering our homes and offices, investing in coal, solar, wind and nuclear energy. Bush said he will direct the rest of the funding towards re-inventing fuel for automobiles: creating better batteries and researching alternative methods of producing ethanol, which he hopes will be practical within six years. Bush also set the goal of eliminating over 75% of US oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.

“By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past,” he said.

To encourage innovation and improve math and science education, the President announced the American Competitiveness Initiative. The Initiative will double federal funding for specific physical science research programs over the next 10 years, make permanent a research and development tax credit for the private sector, and bring 30,000 professionals into high school math and science classrooms. As part of his plan, Bush proposes to train 70,000 new instructors to teach advanced-placement math and science classes, as well as provide early help to students who underperform in math.

“Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hard-working, ambitious people and we are going to keep that edge,” he said.

In what was probably the least-expected portion of his address, Bush called for legislation prohibiting what he termed “the most egregious abuses of medical research.” The president asked Congress to ban “human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling or patenting human embryos.”

“Human live is a gift from our creator,” he said, “and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale.”

Bush also addressed the rising cost of healthcare, saying he would use electronic records and other health information technology to control cost and reduce medical errors. He called for medical liability reform, saying lawsuits drive too many doctors out of practice, leaving Americans without the specialists they need. In another plea to Congress, the President asked for a bipartisan commission to examine the impact of aging baby boomers on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The president pledged, with the help of the legislature, to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS by reforming and reauthorizing the Ryan White Act, which funds primary care for people with HIV/AIDS who cannot afford it on their own. He also asked for new state funding to eliminate the wait lists for AIDS medicine in America.

“We will also lead a nationwide effort, working closely with African-American churches and faith-based groups, to deliver rapid HIV tests to millions, end the stigma of AIDS, and come closer to the day when there are no new infections in America,” Bush said.

While the latter sections of Bush’s 2006 State of the Union were science-heavy, the President did not directly address the teaching of intelligent design, the space program, avian flu or global warming.

Originally published February 1, 2006


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