April 24, 2015 Capitol Update

In this issue:



The 2015 Engineering Public Policy Symposium was recently convened in Washington, D.C. to highlight big data, energy, and manufacturing public policy issues. The annual event brought together over 100 leaders - Presidents, President-Elects and Executive Directors - from 44 national engineering societies, representing more than two million engineers. ASME served as the Chair and lead organizer of the Symposium, which was made possible by a grant from the United Engineering Foundation.

The day long Symposium featured key speakers from the Administration, Congress, and Federal Agencies who discussed their strategies to encourage a resurgence in the U.S. manufacturing and energy sectors and the challenges and opportunities with emerging big data. Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, served as the event’s keynote speaker, and spoke about the Administration’s strong emphasis on investing in technology innovation and R&D, and in promoting a ‘maker culture’ in the United States. Kalil asked the engineering community for support in promoting manufacturing events around the country – like the upcoming White House Maker Faire – to promote the maker movement and a culture that celebrates engineering and science. 

Several speakers addressed the use of big data and its impact on U.S. a range of industries. Suzanne Iacono, Acting Assistant Director for Computing and Information Science and Engineering Directorate at the National Science Foundation, highlighted some of the benefits of big data, including improved efficiency in transportation systems and a more stable electric grid. Irene Qualters, Division Director of the Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure at the National Science Foundation, discussed the recent findings and projects undertaken by NSF to improve and develop a cyberinfrastructure that can advance the U.S. in the 21st century.

There was also a manufacturing policy panel that examined the current state of U.S. manufacturing policy and recommendations for future developments.  J.J. Raynor, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, talked about the continued progress of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.  Michael Molnar, Director of the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office at NIST discussed the successful programs run out of NIST and encouraged all Symposium participants to encourage their organizations to participate in National Manufacturing Day on October 2nd.  Robert Ivester, Deputy Director in the Advanced Manufacturing Office for the Department of Energy (DOE), talked about the successes the DOE has had investing in many new technologies.  Finally, Erik Antonsson, a member of the National Academy of Engineering’s “Making Value in America” Foundational Committee, offered a number of recommendations to move U.S. manufacturing forward in order to continue to be competitive in the global economy.

Providing perspectives from the 114th Congress, the Honorable Bruce Westerman, one of a handful of engineers in Congress, spoke about how his experience in engineering and local politics inspired him to run for office and his current efforts to bring engineering perspectives to public policy.

Following the conclusion of the Symposium, outreach to congressional leaders continued as attendees met with their congressional representatives in the House and Senate to discuss engineering and science budget priorities, urge sustained federal funding to support to manufacturing and R&D, and to support the Manufacturing Universities Act of 2015.



Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015. The bill, H.R. 1806, would authorize targeted increases in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 for: the National Science Foundation (NSF) by over four percent; the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) by over eight percent; and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science by over five percent above 2015 enacted levels. The legislation would flat fund all these agencies in FY 2017.

These increases are offset by a 30 percent cut to DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and 50 percent cut to the Advanced Research Project Agency- Energy (ARPA-E) over FY 2015 funding levels. There would also be significant reductions to specific directorates at NSF including the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences.

The full bill can be reviewed at: http://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/Bills_Amendments/041515_America_COMPETES_xml.pdf

A week after introduction, the full Committee considered the bill at a markup during which minority members labeled the bill as “an America COMPETES bill in name only. It does nothing to further our scientific and innovation enterprise.” To read Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson’s (D-TX) statement, please visit:: http://democrats.science.house.gov/press-release/ranking-member-johnson%E2%80%99s-statement-majority%E2%80%99s-competes-legislation

Additional information on the hearing, including the archived webcast of the event, is available at: http://science.house.gov/markup/hr-1806-america-competes-reauthorization-act-2015



The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to receive testimony on the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook for 2015. The Honorable Adam Sieminski, EIA Administrator, was the sole witness.

In his testimony, Sieminski summarized key findings from EIA’s April Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) – http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/?src=home-b2 - which found that:

  • Crude oil prices are projected to increase over next two years;
  • U.S. crude oil production to remain relatively flat in 2015 and 2016;
  • Total liquids consumption increases through 2016;
  • Lower gasoline prices expected to save average household $700 in 2015 compared with 2014;
  • Natural gas prices remain below 2014 levels in both 2015 and 2016;
  • Natural gas share of electric power generation expected to increase over 2014 level, reflecting lower natural gas prices; and,
  • Generation from renewable sources continues to rise.

He also reviewed the recently released Annual Energy Outlook 2015 (AEO2015) – refer to http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/ – which focuses on the factors that shape U.S. energy markets through 2040 under the assumption that current laws and regulations remain generally unchanged throughout the projection period. Among its projections are the following:

  • Continued strong growth in domestic tight oil production reduces and possibly eliminates net liquid fuel imports;
  • Future natural gas prices will be influenced by a number of factors, including global energy prices, resource availability, and demand for natural gas;
  • Net natural gas trade, including LNG exports, depends largely on the effects of resource levels and world energy prices;
  • Regional variations in domestic crude oil and natural gas production can force significant shifts in flows between regions, requiring investment in or realignment of pipelines and other midstream infrastructure;
  • Technology and policy promote slower growth of energy demand;
  • Industrial energy use rises with growth of shale gas supply; and,
  • Electricity prices increase with rising fuel costs and expenditures on electric transmission and distribution infrastructure.

Sieminski’s 17-page written statement is available at: http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings-and-business-meetings?ID=80f3bba9-29ca-48ca-b896-1f4567a5b285, as is an archived webcast of the hearing.



The Obama Administration released the initial installment of the first-ever Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), which examines how to modernize the nation’s energy infrastructure to promote economic competitiveness, energy security, and environmental responsibility and take full advantage of American innovation and the new sources of domestic energy supply that are transforming the Nation’s energy marketplace.

This report focuses on energy transmission, storage, and distribution (TS&D) infrastructure -- the networks of pipelines, wires, storage, waterways, railroads, and other facilities that form the backbone of our energy system. The QER identifies opportunities these systems provide for a clean and secure energy future, as well as some growing and potential vulnerabilities of these systems. The report also proposes policy recommendations and investments to replace, protect, expand, and modernize TS&D infrastructure.

Highlights from each of the chapters in this year’s QER, include:

  • Ensuring the Resilience, Reliability, Safety, and Security of TS&D Infrastructure by establishing a $3.5 billion competitive program to accelerate pipeline replacement and enhance maintenance programs for natural gas distribution systems.
  • Modernizing the Electric Grid by promoting grid modernization and improving grid communication through standards and interoperability.
  • Modernizing U.S. Energy Security Infrastructures in a Changing Global Marketplace by supporting fuels diversity through research, demonstration, and analysis. 

A fact sheet summarizing the 2015 QER and the full report itself may be viewed at:  http://energy.gov/epsa/downloads/quadrennial-energy-review-full-report



Late last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, the bipartisan compromise reached by Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to rewrite the broken No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. The legislation passed unanimously through the HELP Committee and now moves to the Senate floor.

The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the chief law governing the federal role in K-12 education. The most recent reauthorization of ESEA was the “No Child Left Behind Act,” which was enacted in 2001 and expired in 2007.

One of the bipartisan amendments that passed the Committee was related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and would provide each state with formula-based funding to support partnerships between local schools, businesses, universities, and non-profit organizations to improve student learning in the STEM subjects. Each state would choose how to spend and prioritize these funds, which can support a wide range of STEM activities from in-depth teacher training, to engineering design competitions, to improving the diversity of the STEM workforce.  The amendment passed by a vote of 12-10.

Additional information on the STEM funding amendment is available at: http://www.stemedcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Fact-Sheet-Title-II-STEM-Amendment.pdf

Over 90 organizations, including ASME, signed a letter in support of STEM education as an ESEA priority. The letter and list of signatories may be viewed at: http://www.stemedcoalition.org/2015/04/14/over-90-organizations-support-stem-education-as-an-esea-priority/?utm_source=Copy+of+Final+STEM+Support+Letter+and+Senate+Update&utm_campaign=ESEA+Letter&utm_medium=email



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released its 20th Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, showing a two percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions in 2013 from 2012 levels, but a nine percent drop in emissions since 2005.

Total U.S. greenhouse emissions were 6,673 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2013. By sector, power plants were the largest source of emissions, accounting for 31 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. The transportation sector was the second largest source, at 27 percent. Industry and manufacturing were the third largest source, at 21 percent. The increase in total national greenhouse gas emissions between 2012 and 2013 was due to increased energy consumption across all sectors in the U.S. economy and greater use of coal for electricity generation.

The agency prepares the inventory annually in collaboration with other federal agencies, and submits the report to the Secretariat of the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change every year on April 15. The Inventory presents historical emissions since 1990 and covers seven key greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride. In addition to tracking U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the inventory also calculates carbon dioxide that is removed from the atmosphere through the uptake of carbon in forests and other vegetation. EPA has been publishing the inventory since 1994, but tracks back to 1990.

Additional information on the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report can be found at:

To view and sort the data in EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data Explorer, go to:



After remaining essentially flat for the past two years, the number of full-time graduate students enrolled in science and engineering programs rose by 2.4 percent in 2013, to nearly 425,000 students, according to a new InfoBrief from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).

NCSES found the increase was largely due to a 7.9 percent rise in full-time enrollment of foreign graduate students on temporary visas. Foreign enrollment hit an all-time high of 168,297 students in 2013, or 39.6 percent of the full-time science and engineering graduate student population--up from 35.9 percent in 2008.

In contrast, full-time enrollment for U.S. science and engineering graduate students fell for the third year in a row. But while overall enrollment by U.S. citizens and permanent residents declined, the number of U.S. students of Hispanic or Latino descent has climbed steadily since 2008, resulting in 25.8 percent in growth.

NCSES found that among U.S. graduate students, enrollment continued to become more diverse. Of the total students enrolled in science and engineering graduate programs:

  • 8.9 percent were Asian and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders
  • 8.6 percent were Hispanic or Latino
  • 8.1 percent were Black or African American
  • 2.1 percent reported they were more than one race
  • 0.6 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native

Those groups made up 28 percent of total graduate enrollments in science and engineering, including U.S. and foreign students. In 2008, they accounted for less than a quarter of students who were U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

The study also found that a decade-long decline continued in postdocs conducting research in the sciences. Between 2010 and 2013, the number of postdocs in science fields dropped by 2.8 percent, with the largest decreases in the two biggest science fields: biological sciences and physical sciences. Over the same period, the number of postdocs in engineering fields rose by 2 percent, with the largest increases in chemical engineering, biomedical engineering and electrical engineering.

Full-Time Graduate Enrollment in Science and Engineering Rose in 2013, Fueled by a Large Increase in Foreign Graduate Enrollment, can be found at http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/stem-workforce-development/ under Issue Reports.


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