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Investment for the Future

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Investment in the Future

The United States created the most dynamic economy in the world because our businesses and our government looked beyond the horizon.

Whether we are talking about the railroads in the 1840s, aerospace in the 1960s, or the internet in the 1990s, Americans led the world into new industries because of the foresighted investments that had been made decades before.

Photo Courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Investment in basic research and development is about 2.6% of GDP – significantly less than the 3% that we held as a standard through the 1960s. Meanwhile, over the last two years, private investment, defined by the Bureau of Economic Analysis as capital investments by both households and businesses, was the lowest, as a percentage of GDP, since World War II.

The cumulative effect of such data is to show that the U.S. is in danger of losing its competitive edge.

Government and business need to look beyond short-term concerns – whether it is quarterly reports to Wall Street or biannual elections – and return to policies that will help America grow in the long term.

Ultimately, this is about priorities – not about ideology.

Photo Courtesy of Lawrence Livermore NIF

Is it in the national interest to spend more on a tax break for employee parking ($3.1 billion in 2011) than the Department of Energy spent on applied R&D in 2010 ($2.27 billion)? Is it right that we see China investing $34.6 billion in clean energy in 2009, while the U.S. invested only $18.6 billion? Will our businesses cede global leadership to foreign competitors because they fail to innovate and invest for the future?

Potential ‘National Missions’ for Energy Security:
1. Fusion
2. Space Based Solar Power

Solutions are available.

Investment in infrastructure that leverages dollars from the private sector for public good can quickly help return our highways, airways, waterways, and railroads to the world-class level they should be.

Photo Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Research into next-generation energy sources, like fusion, is ongoing at our national labs and roadmap for commercialization of fusion energy could encourage the public-private partnerships necessary to bring this game-changing technology to market.

We know in general what the solutions will look like; the problem is that we seem to lack the political will to work together and form a consensus.

These problems require that businesses, scientists, engineers, financiers and our two political parties come together to overcome the inertia we suffer from today – to dedicate a new ‘national mission’ ensuring that the 21st Century remains an American Century.