Science and Technology
All across Colorado, companies, universities and federal laboratories are making critical advances in science and technology, educating future generations of engineers, researchers, CEOs and teachers in the process. (And we have many Nobel Prizes to show for it!) This base of talent is the catalyst for creating and recruiting new businesses to our state.
Our future as a state and a nation rests on our ability to stay on the cutting edge and to remain the world leader in discovery and innovation. Among other things, that means investing in science and technology and training future generations for the jobs of tomorrow. As a member of the Armed Services and Energy and Natural Resources committees, I'm working to ensure Colorado remains a national leader in this effort and is positioned to win the global economic race.
The ABCs of Colorado's Knowledge Economy
While Colorado benefits from broad expertise in science and technology — including over a dozen federal research laboratories and many world-class universities — three sectors stand out in our burgeoning high-tech economy: aerospace, bioscience and clean technology.
Colorado has the second ranked aerospace economy in the nation. We are home to three key military command posts (Air Force Space Command, North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, and U.S. Northern Command), three space-related U.S. Air Force bases (Buckley, Peterson and Schriever), and many of the nation's top aerospace companies. The University of Colorado receives more research funding from NASA than any other university. All told, the space industry in Colorado employs 66,000 workers across all sectors. And these are high-paying jobs: the average wage for a private aerospace employee is nearly double Colorado's average private sector wage.
Whether it’s leading NASA’s next-generation deep space mission, furthering commercial launch capabilities, developing a high-performance clean space propulsion system, or advancing earth science, space science and aeronautics, the future of space is being spearheaded right here in Colorado. This is the tradition of aerospace leadership that I’m proud to support as your senator.
I have also been a strong supporter of bioscience and biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health and research institutions throughout Colorado. Medical research into treatments and cures for disease is important not only for improving and saving lives, but also for reducing health care costs for Colorado families. Innovation in the biosciences is also an important economic driver, employing more than 20,000 Coloradans at more than 400 companies throughout the state.
Our research community also fuels our thriving clean energy and technology sector. Colorado companies that produce energy from renewable sources or promote energy conservation or efficiency grew by an astounding 37 percent between 2007 and 2012 — a growth rate that was nearly three times the national average. That growth is due in no small part to the extraordinary work and talent at our universities and federal research labs, especially the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden. Smart federal investments in clean technology research, combined with forward-looking energy policies like our statewide renewable electricity standard, have made Colorado a national leader in clean energy.
As your U.S. senator, I will continue advocating for smart investments in research that supports Colorado’s innovative science and technology community and the good-paying, middle class jobs that it creates across the state.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education
The United States cannot remain the world leader in scientific discovery and innovation unless it continues to invest in educating Americans in science, technology, engineering and math — more commonly referred to as STEM education. A well-rounded education will be the key to success in the 21st century economy, which is why improving STEM education will give our children the best chance to succeed in an ever-changing global jobs race. Yet despite the growing importance of STEM fields, American students continue to perform poorly on international tests of science and math compared to other industrialized nations. We must improve investments now to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow — and that includes producing qualified teachers to guide them.
I proudly have promoted STEM education as a founding co-chairman of the STEM Education Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives and now as a member of the U.S. Senate STEM Education Caucus.
I am cosponsoring the Mobile Device Theft Deterrence Act of 2013 because cell phone theft is a threat to public safety. These oftentimes violent crimes could be prevented by making it more difficult for thieves to sell and reactivate the phones. By imposing strict criminal penalties for tampering with identification numbers that are oftentimes altered to try and activate these phones, we can help ensure stolen phones do not end up on the black market.
Colorado’s aerospace industry is a critical component of the state’s economy. However, these companies are impeded by outdated and unnecessary export controls that put them at a disadvantage relative to foreign competitors. I supported legislation that would free these companies to more effectively compete in global markets. It is past time we updated these controls to improve national security and enhance our economic competitiveness. Similar legislation was eventually signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013.
I co-chair the bipartisan Senate Science and Technology Caucus with Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. The caucus educates Members of Congress and their staffs about issues important to the science and technology community by bringing some of the nation’s leading experts to Capitol Hill. Recent events hosted by the caucus focused on science, technology, engineering and math education, space technology and advanced computing.
Colorado is positioned to lead the country in renewable energy. That's why I joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing the American Energy and Job Promotion Act. This bill will extend several key renewable energy tax credits, like the production tax credit for wind, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, and other renewables. This measure, and others that I have supported, could help Americans reduce their energy costs at home and at the pump. Clean energy has great potential in Colorado and the U.S. to create new jobs and help us win the global energy race - but this will not happen without support from the federal government.
Renewable energy is a crucial element of Colorado and America’s economic and energy future, supporting thousands of jobs while reducing impacts on the environment. I want to ensure that the tremendous growth in this field over the last decade continues into the next one. That is why I support extending key renewable energy tax credits, like the Production Tax Credit and Section 1603, to help to give the industry the certainty it needs for sustained growth that will create good, long-term jobs. These incentives are critical to help companies leverage private investment to create good-paying jobs in Colorado. I recently joined with several other Senators in sending letters to Senate leadership emphasizing the importance of these tax credits.
I joined with Governor Hickenlooper and the entire Colorado congressional delegation on a bipartisan letter to the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) urging them to move the National Solar Observatory headquarters to the University of Colorado at Boulder. AURA eventually selected the University of Colorado as the winner. The new site will employ up to 70 scientists, engineers and staff with an annual payroll of about $20 million, and will require cutting-edge facilities to develop advanced instrumentation and conduct solar research.
Colorado’s aerospace economy is in the top three in the nation, providing good-paying jobs for thousands of Coloradans. Colorado companies are building the successor to the space shuttle, literally changing the way we access space, pushing the limits of our understanding of the universe and inspiring future generations in the process. On January 27, 2011, I urged President Obama to submit a budget request to Congress for Fiscal Year 2012 that includes funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) consistent with the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. Those funding levels would represent a balanced portfolio supporting all of NASA’s primary objectives, including space exploration, aeronautics and earth and space science, which impact many Colorado companies, laboratories and institutions of higher education.
In the past 30 years, the oil industry has made major technological advances in oil drilling and production. Unfortunately, safety technology has not kept pace and we are now paying the price, both economically and environmentally. That's why I'm taking the lead in the Senate on a bill to commit more research and development funds into safety and accident prevention for offshore and onshore exploration and production activities. The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has underscored the urgent need to change the way we develop and use energy, and we need to learn from this tragedy and be smarter about our energy production.