DOE Chief: U.S. Is in Trouble


"U.S. 'screwed' without R&D investments in science and technology."

Department of Energy Secretary Steve Chu has a message for you: We're screwed if we don't boost our R&D investments in science and technology. He spoke at the National Press Club on Monday, and reiterated a message that's quite common from his speeches over the past two years, but said there's a new sense of urgency now that empowered Republicans have vowed to dramatically cut federal spending.

In his talk, "Is the Energy Race Our New 'Sputnik' Moment?," Chu said countries such as China have replaced Russia as the biggest threats to U.S. dominance in science. These countries are gaining economic and political clout rapidly on the international stage because of their willingness to invest heavily in scientific research and to do so with long-term policies in place.

"I think time is running out. We shouldn't lose sight of this, and federal support for science R&D will be critical for our economic competitiveness," Chu said.

Chu spoke on the day when the White House's Office of Science and Technology issued a report recommending an annual spending of $16 billion in energy research and development, which would be a big boost from the current annual average spending of $5 billion. The speech also happened on the day when President Obama announced a proposal to freeze wages and salaries for federal workers, a move that raises questions about the government's ability to attract talents to work for the DOE and the network of national labs that play a critical role in energy research.

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