Sunday, January 30, 2011

State of the Union: The Takeaway

The State of the Union is typically an opportunity for both sides of the political spectrum to propose their legislative agenda and also position themselves for the next election. This of course has an impact on technology as their is a strong interaction between government and technology.
President Obama decided to frame his legislative agenda on restoring America's competitiveness. I thought this was a rather refreshing speech compared to the usual listing of programs that fit either the Democratic or Republican agenda. I will just go through a few of the items that were brought up.
One of the major initiatives that President Obama mentioned was the on going research into clean energy. This is a topic that I have not discussed on this blog, but just from the companies and countries investing in this business it should be a major growth area in the next five to ten years. He specifically mentioned biofuels created using algae. This is one of the areas where government interest will help spur on more research and investment into a new technology.
The other area that the president highlighted was infrastructure. It is fairly well known that America's roads, bridges, tunnels, and railroads are in bad shape. The ASCE, American Society of Civil Engineers, has routinely in the last few years rated the status of the infrastructure mentioned above at a D rating. This means that much of it must be repaired and in many cases replaced. He specifically mentioned high speed rail as an initiative that was necessary to maintain America's competitiveness. This area has tremendous engineering challenges on all fronts, but opens up the possibility of some amazing innovations. I hope in the future to write a post about this topic.
There was also the general discussion of legislative issues that indirectly impact technology. Those are education and regulations. Educating scientists and engineers is essential to maintaining the United States as a leader in the innovation economy. Regulations sometimes act as a hinderence to new markets and other times are challenges that even engineers are willing to innovate around. I don't plan to look into these in more depth.

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