We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and
do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard,
because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies
and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we
are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win …
— President John F. Kennedy, address at Rice University, Sept. 12, 1962
President Kennedy’s words almost 50 years ago unleashed a torrid wave of research, development and innovation that catapulted the United States to the forefront of technological advancement, which is impacting our everyday lives even today.
If you’re reading this post on a mobile device or on your computer, you are utilizing some of the technology created during the “space race” of the 1960s. If you microwaved your breakfast this morning or used GPS to navigate the traffic on your commute, you used some of the technology inspired by President Kennedy’s words.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama invoked the can-do American spirit that fueled the most rapid innovation and development in human history to inspire Americans and American businesses to employ the same fervor of the space race to a new race — the race to energy independence. President Obama called for the development of new technologies that will create domestically produced renewable and clean energy sources, advancements in biotechnologies to cure disease and a new innovation economy that will put Americans to work to “win the future.” By referencing this as a “Sputnik moment,” President Obama essentially issued a technology call-to-arms in hopes of inspiring American business to lead the way — as they did in the 1960s.
What was business’s response? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said: “Mr. President, no, we can’t.”
See, the Chamber thinks that President Obama’s vision for a clean-energy future is “wholly unrealistic.” They say that they prefer preserving the Big Oil Welfare Tax that provides $4 billion annually in taxpayer subsidies to the highly profitable big oil industry even as their profits skyrocket (one company reported a 72 percent increase in profits this week). They say that we shouldn’t use that money instead to fund research and development on clean energy technologies that will enhance our national security by reducing our dependence on oil even as gas prices creep closer to $4 per gallon.
That’s right; the U.S. Chamber wants you to continue paying subsidies to Big Oil while you continue to pay more and more to Big Oil at the gas pump because moving to cleaner sources of energy to fuel our vehicles and power our homes is simply too hard for America.
Imagine where the U.S. would be, or what your life would be like, if, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders said President Kennedy’s call for leadership in innovation was “unrealistic.”
The Chamber’s position is completely counter to the spirit of entrepreneurship that is the foundation for America’s “can-do” attitude. They think we should just sit by and watch as China, India and other competitors outpace us in clean-energy innovation. Taking the U.S. Chamber’s position on clean energy to its full extent, they’d probably be OK with changing the name of our country to the “United States of American’t.” Thankfully, President Obama, as President Kennedy did 50 years ago, thinks otherwise.
David Di Martino is CEO of Blue Line Strategic Communications Inc. The views expressed in this blog are his and do not necessarily represent Blue Line’s. Follow David: @bluelinedd.