April 14, 2014
Capitol Update

In this issue:

 

SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE PASSES MANUFACTURING BILL TO CREATE REGIONAL HUBS

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed S. 1468, the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2013, which seeks to strengthen collaborations between the government and the manufacturing sector. The legislation now awaits action by the full Senate.

 

The Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2013 would create a network of regional hubs, each with their own focus, and would address manufacturing problems for businesses and researchers in that focus area. The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) has already started creating the regional hubs.

 

The first hub created was a pilot project in Youngstown, Ohio, and it operates with the support of federal money and matching funding from a number of businesses, organizations, and universities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Additional hubs have been announced for Detroit, MI; Chicago, IL; and Raleigh, NC. S. 1468 is sponsored by Senators Brown (D-OH) and Roy Blunt (R-MO).

During the markup, a new version of the legislation was introduced which halved the funding level from a one-time, $600 million investment to $300 million. The cuts to other parts of the federal budget to pay for this program have yet to be identified. The bill was approved by voice vote.

For additional information, refer to: http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=dace78e8-fb35-4f11-a7db-86c2663cbeff&ContentType_id=77eb43da-aa94-497d-a73f-5c951ff72372&Group_id=4b968841-f3e8-49da-a529-7b18e32fd69d

ASME has supported NNMI since its announcement several years ago and has supported the RAMI Act in particular. Position statements in support of these initiatives can be found at https://www.asme.org/about-asme/get-involved/advocacy-government-relations/policy-publications/position-statements

 

SPACE SUBCOMMITTEE APPROVES BIPARTISAN NASA AUTHORIZATION ACT

The Space Subcommittee has approved the NASA Authorization Act of 2014 (H.R. 4412) with unanimous bipartisan support. The bill updates the previously committee-approved bill to reflect the funding agreement reached in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. The Subcommittee also approved a bipartisan Palazzo-Edwards amendment that ensures sustainability of purpose and budget for high-priority NASA programs. The amendment reaffirms Congress's commitment to space exploration, both human and robotic, and makes clear that a human mission to Mars is the goal for NASA's human spaceflight program with biennial reports for what progress has been made toward that goal.

Passed by a voice vote, the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act continues the guidance Congress has given to NASA for nearly a decade by reaffirming a stepping stone approach to exploration by developing an exploration roadmap. It supports the development of the Space Launch System and the Orion Crew Vehicle. The bill also focuses NASA's efforts to develop a capability to access low Earth orbit and the International Space Station so that America can once again have human space flight capabilities.

 

The bill also supports a science directorate that reflects the input from the scientific and engineering community and an aeronautics research directorate that contributes to our nation's aerospace economy. The bill establishes necessary oversight provisions to ensure that NASA manages its programs and projects efficiently and effectively.

For more information about the markup, including the full text of the bill and the amendment, visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website at http://science.house.gov/markup/subcommittee-space-markup-hr-national-aeronautics-and-space-administration-authorization-act

 

SUBCOMMITTEE ON RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY HOLDS HEARING ON "PRIZES TO SPUR INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY BREAKTHROUGHS"

The House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a hearing on “Prizes to Spur Innovation and Technology Breakthroughs.” The hearing examined the role of prizes funded by the private sector and federal science agencies in spurring technical innovation. The FIRST Act (H.R. 4186), introduced earlier this year, encourages more public-private partnerships for science and technology prize competitions.

In his opening statement, Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) observed, “A top priority of the Science Committee is to encourage such innovation and technological advancements. To maintain our competitive advantage, we must continue to support fundamental research and development that encourages the creation and design of next generation technologies... The FIRST Act improves federal science prize authority. It allows federal science agencies to better partner with the private sector to maximize the value of every taxpayer dollar invested in research and development.”

One witness, Christopher Frangione, Vice President of Prize Development for XPrize, summed up the challenge with one quote, “Why find the needle in the haystack when that needle can find you?” He made it clear that prizes help to “leverage investment, democratize innovation, and reduce risk”.

The prepared statements of the hearings witnesses, as well as an archived webcast of the hearing itself, are available at: http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-research-and-technology-hearing-prizes-spur-innovation-and-technology

 

LAWRENCE LIVERMORE ANALYSIS: AMERICANS ARE USING MORE ENERGY

Americans used more renewable, fossil and even nuclear energy in 2013, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Each year, the Laboratory releases energy flow charts that illustrate the nation's consumption and use of energy. Overall, Americans used 2.3 quadrillion thermal units more in 2013 than the previous year.

The Laboratory also has released a companion chart illustrating the nation's energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Americans' carbon dioxide emissions increased to 5,390 million metric tons, the first annual increase since 2010.

Wind energy continued to grow strongly, increasing 18 percent from 1.36 quadrillion BTUs, or quads, in 2012 to 1.6 quads in 2013 (a BTU or British Thermal Unit is a unit of measurement for energy; 3,400 BTU is equivalent to about 1 kilowatt-hour). New wind farms continue to come on line with bigger, more efficient turbines. Most new wind turbines can generate 2 to 2.5 megawatts of power.

Natural gas prices rose slightly in 2013, reversing some of the recent shift from coal to gas in the electricity production sector. Although this did cause carbon dioxide emissions to increase in 2013, "the power industry is building a lot of natural gas plants," said A.J. Simon, group leader for Energy at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "Gas plants are cheaper than coal plants. Natural gas is going to be a winner into the foreseeable future." Overall natural gas use increased by 0.6 quads.

Nuclear energy use was greater in 2013 than in 2012. Petroleum use also increased in 2013 from the previous year. The transportation sector is using more renewable energy, specifically biomass that is converted to ethanol. The majority of energy use in 2013 was used for electricity generation (38.2 quads), followed by transportation, industrial, residential and commercial. Energy use in the residential, commercial transportation and industrial sectors all increased slightly.

Additional information about the 2013 U.S. energy flow charts can be found at: https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/energy.html#2013

 

UPDATE ON ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY VEHICLE MANUFACTURING LOANS

U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz recently highlighted key improvements to the Department's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program. The ATVM Loan Program plays a crucial role in supporting the growth of the U.S. auto manufacturing industry—including automotive component manufacturing—by helping manufacturers scale up to meet rising demand for fuel-efficient vehicles.

The ATVM Program, administered by the Department's Loan Programs Office (LPO), has more than $16 billion in remaining loan authority to support the production of fuel-efficient, advanced technology vehicles and components in the U.S. The Department has announced steps to improve the program by:

  • Clarifying Eligibility For Component Suppliers: LPO has clarified that a broad range of automotive component technologies are eligible for the program. These fuel-efficient technologies may include, but are not limited to, advanced engines and powertrains, light-weighting materials, advanced electronics, and fuel-efficient tires.
  • Improving Responsiveness to Applicants: LPO has updated its program description to describe the application process, eligibility requirements, and the program's mission and goals. LPO also offers pre-application consultations with potential applicants to promote an open and transparent exchange of information about the program, its eligibility requirements, and loan terms.
  • Revising the Application Process: Recognizing the need for timely processing of applications and a clear understanding of the types of information required during due diligence, LPO has launched an online application portal (https://apply.loanprograms.energy.gov/) to facilitate and improve the ease of the application process.

 

NASA CHALLENGE INVITES STUDENTS TO DESIGN EXPLORATION SYSTEMS

College and university students have an opportunity to help design systems for future space habitats and exploration systems through NASA's Exploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge. Applications for the fifth annual challenge will be accepted through April 30th.

The project will challenge students to design and implement new prototype systems that may advance exploration capabilities. To take part in the X-Hab Challenge, student teams submit their plan for the design, manufacture, assembly and testing of their system. These plans will be evaluated by the agency's Exploration Augmentation Module (EAM) team, a new agency activity under the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) division of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington, DC. The AES division pioneers development and demonstration of new technologies for future human missions beyond Earth's orbit.

The EAM consolidated several existing activities to fine-tune its effort to develop prototype systems that augment Orion's habitation and spacewalking capabilities for extended deep space missions. Orion is NASA's next-generation spacecraft designed to carry astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit, including to an asteroid and Mars. Orion's first uncrewed test flight, Exploration Flight Test-1, is scheduled to launch later this year.

Previous X-Hab Challenge projects included an inflatable loft for crew sleeping quarters, plant growth systems, stowage systems and habitat layout designs. This year, students may choose projects from a variety of areas such as power distribution systems, advanced avionics, inflatable structures, additive manufacturing and food production systems.

The X-Hab Challenge is part of a continuing effort to engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. The challenge is managed for the EAM project team by the National Space Grant Foundation. Teams selected for the challenge will receive a monetary stipend to assist in producing functional products based on their designs.

For more information on the X-Hab Challenge, visit http://go.nasa.gov/x-hab

 

The articles contained in Capitol Update are not positions of ASME or any of its sub-entities, unless specifically noted as such. This publication is designed to inform ASME members about issues of concern being debated and discussed in the halls of congress, in the states and in the federal agencies.

 

ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036
Website: http://www.asme.org/about-asme/advocacy-government-relations

  • Melissa Carl covers public policy-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and diversity issues for ASME. She can be reached at carlm@asme.org
  • Paul Fakes covers public policy-related energy, standards and environmental issues for ASME. He can be reached at fakesp@asme.org
  • Roy Chrobocinski covers public policy-related research and development (R&D) and manufacturing issues for ASME. He can be reached at chrobocinski@asme.org