Biden And Trump Talk Science And Technology In Wisconsin, Occasionally

Oct 30, 2020

On the presidential campaign trail this summer and fall, it hasn’t all been about COVID-19 or the leadership skills of the two major party candidates, Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden.

For example, both candidates have occasionally talked about scientific and technical changes for the nation. One technology advocate says the winner of Tuesday's contest will have a long list of issues to address.

One tech topic former Vice President Biden has touted in Wisconsin is a sizable expansion in the use of electric vehicles, at least for the vehicles the federal government owns. Biden spoke about his plans in September at an aluminum foundry in Manitowoc. 

"Electric vehicles will replace cars in the federal fleet. We have one of the largest fleets in the world. We're going to shift them all to electric vehicles. And guess what, it means you're going to be providing much more lighter frames, more aluminum for automobiles,” Biden told foundry workers.

The small but growing consumer market for electric vehicles, or EV, already makes use of aluminum frames to reduce weight and increase mileage. But some carmakers are also opting for high-strength steel or a mix of metals.

Bounce Milwaukee business owner Becky Cooper has two electric vehicles that she recharges with solar panels. One of the Nissan Leafs is for personal use, the other is used by the family entertainment center for pizza deliveries.

Becky Cooper, owner of Bounce Milwaukee, stands between her two electric vehicles.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Cooper says EV is the way the nation is heading.

"And we need to embrace that and be ready for that. Innovating in electric vehicles, in clean energy is the way we need to progress forward as a country. It can create so many jobs and really, a new way of looking at who we are as a country,” Cooper told WUWM.

Cooper's south side business has been shut down since August, when the COVID-19 surge started in Wisconsin, and only offered limited services earlier in the summer. Cooper says Biden has a more cohesive response plan to the coronavirus going forward, one that includes more science.

But Cooper says she appreciates one science and technology initiative from the Trump administration, an effort to send humans farther into space. President Trump referred to the plan this week during a speech near La Crosse.

"Americans will land the first woman on the moon and the United States will be the first nation to land an astronaut on Mars. NASA is the talk of the world right now, as a space center,” Trump said.

The Trump administration proposes the moon landing by 2024, with NASA saying a voyage to Mars with astronauts can happen about a dozen years from now — timetables some critics say are unrealistic.

But there's more to the Trump space initiative. He's also created a new branch of the Armed Services called Space Force, saying, "Space is the world's newest war-fighting domain" and that "American superiority in space is absolutely vital."

>>Trump Created The Space Force. Here's What It Will Actually Do

At the Trump rally in West Salem, Wisconsin Dells resident Josh Pozdalski said he supports all of it.

The crowd at President Trump's late afternoon speech on Tuesday in West Salem, near La Crosse.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

"Oh yes. Oh yeah, and just the technology of being out there in outer space for military reasons is a smart idea.  You know, we got all the stuff going on out there in space with the satellites, it's endless. But we shouldn't be relying on China or other countries for that technology, because they could take that away from us, just as well as they gave it to us,” Pozdalski said.

The president of the Wisconsin Technology Council says researchers at the UW-Madison have been part of the space effort for decades, including some recent experiments, and could benefit from more launches.  

But Tom Still says his independent nonprofit science and tech advisory group to the governor and state Legislature has a long list of to-do items for the next U.S. president. Still says early on, there needs to be more focus on pandemics, resistance to antibiotics and health technology.

"That includes health information technology. That includes diagnostics, therapeutics and medical devices,” Still said.

Tom Still is the president of Wisconsin Technology Council, an independent nonprofit science and tech advisory group to the governor and state Legislature.
Credit Courtesy of Wisconsin Technology Council

Still also says high-speed internet known as broadband needs to be installed in more of the U.S.

"Because you can't have online education, online medicine, online emergency services, and online commerce if you don't have adequate or above adequate connections through the internet,” he said.

The list goes on for Still, including more skilled worker training for people who have lost jobs during the pandemic — jobs that may not return in their past form. He says that training will be useful if the next president tries to bring more manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. to produce items that are needed for health care emergencies. 

The leader of the Wisconsin Technology Council also wants online privacy issues to be addressed. Finally, he’s hoping for passage of bipartisan legislation known as The Endless Frontier Act. It would dramatically increase investments in the discovery, creation, and commercialization of technology fields to translate into new American companies.

Still says we don't yet know which party will control the White House and Congress. He says gridlock is always possible, but he's hopeful for cooperation after political leaders are sworn in next January. 

Do you have a question about innovation in Wisconsin that you'd like WUWM's Chuck Quirmbach to explore? Submit it below.

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