The president called this period in American history another "Sputnik moment," invoking the government's long tradition in guiding tech breakthroughs, from the microchip to the jumbo jet. The next stage in American innovation, he suggested, will be green energy.
It's easy to see why. The demand for energy will increase dramatically in the next few decades across the globe, and old fossil fuel power is scarce, expensive and environmentally harmful. The future demonstrates an obvious demand for new, clean power, and the world's most advanced countries should be racing to provide supply.
Of the 500 or so words Obama dedicated to innovation in his State of the Union, 360 dealt with clean energy. But that's just talk. The United States government provides only 20 percent of the OECD's energy R&D spending. On the other hand, we make up 70 percent of the developed world's bioscience and medicine research spending, as economist Michael Mandel writes.
When Washington talks innovation, it's all about clean energy. But our money isn't going where our mouth is. Public and private investment in information technology and biosciences absolutely dominates the R&D pie:
"The truth of the matter is the US in the last 10 years has put its R&D money into information technology and biosciences," Mandel told me in a previous interview. "That's really it. We have not really put it into energy."