Calls for a New 'Moonshot,' This Time for an Earthly Worry

Intel CEO says the US needs to reclaim its leadership on semiconductors
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2021 8:57 AM CDT
Calls for a New 'Moonshot,' This Time for an Earthly Worry
President Biden holds up a silicon wafer as he participates in a CEO Summit on semiconductors at the White House on Monday.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The world is facing a shortage of semiconductor chips, and the ramifications can be seen in the temporary closing of several US auto plants around the country, reports NPR. The chips are crucial to more than automobiles, however, and the supply crunch threatens to slow economic recovery from the pandemic. The issue took center stage at the White House on Monday as President Biden convened a virtual summit with industry leaders. Coverage:

  • The US used to be a world leader in chip manufacturing, but it has largely ceded control to Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and China, reports Politico. In 1990, the US made about 37% of semiconductors, but the percentage has since shrunk to 12%, per NPR.

  • In an interview with Axios, the CEO of chip manufacturer Intel called for a US "moonshot" on semiconductor manufacturing to help make up lost ground. "I would argue the most important building block for our economic livelihood and every aspect of human life is now increasingly not in our control," said Pat Gelsinger. He pushed for billions in US spending in the next few years, with the goal of bringing the American output up to 33% of the world supply.
  • Biden convened his virtual summit on Monday with Gelsinger and other industry leaders and made the case that his infrastructure proposal would help, reports the New York Times. During the meeting, Biden held up a silicon wafer and said, "This is infrastructure." Biden's plan includes $50 billion to fund the CHIPS for America Act to boost manufacturing, though such investments would take years to see fruition. An additional $50 billion would strengthen US supply chains in the meantime, per Politico.
  • Separately, Gelsinger announced that Intel might be able to provide more immediate relief to automakers, reports Reuters. The company is in talks to produce chips specifically for the auto industry within six to nine months.
  • One reason for the global shortage is that demand surged because so many people were home working on computers during the pandemic, notes the BBC. What's more, automakers fearing a prolonged slump in sales reduced orders for chips, and now they're scrambling to catch up with the rebound happening faster than expected.
(More semiconductor chip stories.)

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