April 7, 2017
Capitol Update

In this issue:


With the profusion of biotechnology products expected over the next 10 years, the volume and diversity of new products could overwhelm the U.S. regulatory system, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. There are a number of agencies involved in biotechnology regulations: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to name a few.

Increasing scientific capabilities, tools, and expertise in key areas of expected growth is crucial. Examples of such areas requiring more expertise is understanding the relationships between intended genetic changes and an organism’s observable traits, the unintended effects of genetic changes on target and non-target organisms, predicting and monitoring ecosystem responses, and quantifying the economic and social costs and benefits of biotechnologies.

The report also says that current staffing levels, expertise, and resources available at federal agencies may not be sufficient to address the expected scope and scale of future biotechnology products.
Differing methods for risk-analysis will be needed depending on how novel the new product is. For products that have less-familiar characteristics or more complex risk pathways, new risk-analysis methods may need to be developed.

To review the report, please visit: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24605/preparing-for-future-products-of-biotechnology


In a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report (No. 17-204), the agency discusses the background of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) budget increase of 59 percent from fiscal year 2005 through 2010 and its subsequent reduction of 6 percent since 2010.

In a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Energy and Water Development, the GAO examined recent fluctuations in NRC staffing and budget that were driven by anticipated large number of applications for new nuclear power plants. From 2005 to 2010, NRC had increased its staff from 3,100 employees to nearly 4,000, but staffing has since been reduced due to shifting demands placed on the independent regulatory agency. 

After the expected growth in the commercial nuclear industry did not materialize, the NRC took steps to develop plans to establish clearer agency-wide priorities, align the agency’s budget and workforce with its new workload, streamline agency processes, and better position the agency to respond to changes in external conditions in an agile and flexible manner.  It did so by reducing its workforce and budget by 10 percent and by adjusting its workforce composition to resemble its composition in 2005.

However, Congress and licensees have expressed confusion about the annual budget request for NRC and have said they cannot determine specifically how NRC plans to spend its appropriations.

The full report is available at: http://www.gao.gov/assets/690/683239.pdf


The traditional method of applying biocides into the water of cooling towers to prevent an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease and other waterborne pathogens, which also causes the corrosion of cooling towers, is changing. Electricity can now be used to kill harmful bacteria, meaning there would no longer be the need to add corrosion inhibitors such as the infamous hexavalent chromium, the chemical named in the Erin Brockovich case against Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California.
The internet of things (IoT) can then be used to elevate the effectiveness of this treatment, which:

  • enables the company to ensure water savings by tracking the efficiency of the cooling towers;
  • ensures a more rapid response if there is a system upset that should reduce system downtime; and,
  • tracks whether the equipment is effectively treating the water; and provides real time data.

However, creating incentives to save water are some of several hurdles to overcome in implementing this new technology. More information can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/m8lq4vv  


The Industrial Energy Efficiency and Combined Heat and Power Working Group at the Department of Energy released a new report looking at case studies where energy savings took place in industrial companies and the role of ratepayer-funded support. 

According to the report, cost-effective energy efficiency (EE) projects remain to be implemented in all of the companies and facilities reviewed and there are huge differences related to intended company outcomes. Intentional efforts to identify and implement EE measures must be organized internally and involve different parts of the organization. Those most successful had three key factors:  

  • Senior management demonstrates a commitment to achieving visible and clear EE goals, with targets allocated down to key facility level;
  • Competent staff such as corporate energy managers or outsourced or borrowed experts are essential (“boots on the ground”) must work at the facility-level to continually identify site-specific, profitable EE measures and to follow on execution; and
  • Effective internal systems need to be in place and smoothly operated every year to allocate financing for portfolios of the prepared EE measures deemed to be most attractive.

To read more, go to: http://tinyurl.com/mwyh7dj.


Bioenergy is the largest source of renewable energy, but sustainability issues and proper regulatory frameworks are important to its continued expansion. Increased use of biofuels contribute to reduced greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions and greater energy security while furthering the agricultural sector. In the How2Guide for Bioenergy jointly developed by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), a toolbox is provided for both planning and implementing new bioenergy strategies, or to improve existing ones by removing barriers -- economic and non‑economic.

Countries with high levels of bioenergy deployment illustrate the need to expose project developers to policy and regulatory signals to facilitate design, sustainable sourcing of feedstock and cost‑effective operation of bioenergy plants. National and regional bioenergy roadmaps can play a key role in assisting decision makers to identify pathways that are tailored to local resources and priority actions to overcome economic and non‑economic barriers.

The critical message from this guide is that successful bioenergy deployment requires a cross‑sectoral, integrated approach where the efforts of all stakeholders – ranging from energy, agriculture and forestry, infrastructure, environment, technology and innovation, to economic and social affairs – are coordinated into concerted, sustainable action.

To review the publication, please visit: http://bit.ly/2oCMbfD


Daniel Yergin, Vice Chairman of IHS Markit (Chair) and Chairman of CERAWeek, Thomas Fanning, Chairman, President & CEO of Southern Company, and Joe Kaeser, President & CEO of Siemens AG, spoke about the challenges facing the economy as it relates to manufacturing, technology and infrastructure development at CERAWeek in Texas. CERAWeek is an annual international gathering of energy industry leaders, experts, government officials and policymakers.

Mr. Fanning spoke of the reluctance of companies to make long-term capital commitments. Mr. Fanning has a strong background in the energy sector and sees this sector as a barometer to what is happening in the overall economy. As a business person and problem solver, he believes the business community needs to work to provide solutions facing the government.

Mr. Kaeser said there were five topics that will affect the world: (1) the rise of populism across the world, which leads to nationalism and hurts free trade; (2) global migration, which will massively impact the world; (3) climate change with the fact that  hydrocarbons will still be part of the world economy for many years to come; (4) the Internet of Things (IoT), which will affect people moving from old jobs into newly created ones, but who will require specialized training; and (5) short term thinking that hurts society’s development overall and hinders partnerships. He agrees with President Trump’s stance on “America First,” and believes it is one any political leader should have when representing their people, but he wants to make sure it does not become America only.

Moving onto the topic of digitization and how it is affecting the energy industry, Mr. Fanning said there has been a tremendous impact on companies with the building of distributed infrastructure like microgrids.

With the digitization and interconnectedness of the grid being such as important issue, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee also recently held a full committee hearing on the cybersecurity aspect of protecting the grid, which can be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/luqztkv.

In the area of cybersecurity, Mr. Fanning, who is intimately involved in coordination between the energy sector and government, said one needs to look at machine-to-machine attacks utilizing artificial intelligence (AI), and how to best coordinate information sharing among the federal agencies and the private sector, which has massive control over areas such as energy, water, and infrastructure. State-organized cyberattacks need to be a high priority for business and government, so the electrical grid will not be comprised and a determination of where exactly the attack is coming from can be made. Then the attack can be isolated and not take down the entire system.

To listen the full talk, go to: http://tinyurl.com/kbtu7b3.

Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/ for daily news and policy developments, including the following:
* Play Ball: American Baseball Stadium Round the Bases on Energy Efficiency
*Quantum Computers May Have Higher ‘Speed Limits’ Than Thought
*Regenerative Medicine: The Promise and the Peril
*How to Prepare for Blockchain’s Disruptive Technology Impact


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