November 14, 2014
Capitol Update

In this issue:



The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently released a special report to highlight broader impacts and examples of the diverse and wide-ranging ways NSF-supported science and engineering enriches society.

Each year, 50,000 proposals for research funding in all fields of science and engineering are received by NSF from all corners of the country. NSF proposals are judged by competitive review process built on two criteria: intellectual merit and broader impacts. The broader impacts criteria intends to show how the research advances knowledge and it will benefit society.

"Intellectual merit and broader impacts are the pillars of NSF's merit review process," said Wanda E. Ward, head of NSF's Office of International and Integrative Activities. "In some projects, broader impacts are intrinsic to the science itself. In others, they may focus on broadening the participation of underrepresented groups, education in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM), enhancing research infrastructure, broad dissemination to enhance public understanding and more."

To review this report, as well as learn more about NSF-funded broader impacts, please visit:



The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a not-for-profit international regulatory authority whose mission is to ensure the reliability of the bulk power system in North America, has completed its preliminary reliability review of the assumptions and potential reliability impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. This assessment, Potential Reliability Impacts of EPA's Proposed Clean Power Plan, examines the potential reliability aspects resulting from its anticipated implementation.

The assessment provides the foundation for future reliability analyses and evaluations required by the electric reliability organization, stakeholders and federal and state policy makers to ensure the system maintains reliability. The goal of these studies is to create a framework with realistic timelines that accommodate the expected infrastructure deployments needed to support bulk power system reliability, while achieving the environmental objectives of the proposed rule.

The Clean Power Plan, which seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, calls for states to begin submitting implementation plans as early as June 30, 2016 and regional implementation plans by June 30, 2018.

Based on projections in NERC's 2014 Long-Term Reliability Assessment (to be released later this month), power plant retirements and limited capacity additions are contributing to diminishing reserve margins in New York, the Midwest and Texas. Since 2011, more than 30 GW of conventional fossil-fueled generation has been retired, primarily due to existing environmental policies and low natural gas prices. Industry projections indicate an additional 44.2 GW across the NERC footprint. By 2020, the EPA assumes that impacts of existing environmental regulations, combined with the proposed Clean Power Plan, will reduce coal-fired generation by up to 69.8 GW beyond NERC's 2014 LTRA reference case projections.

This assessment does not advocate or support any policy position or promote a specific compliance approach; rather it provides stakeholders with an independent assessment of reliability while serving as a platform to inform policy discussions on the reliability impacts concerning the proposed plan.

The aforementioned NERC report can be reviewed at:



A new report issued by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) urges coordinated federal action to support the development of commercial products based on discoveries from nanotechnology research, including the establishment of a series of Grand Challenges to focus future nanotechnology R&D.

The “Report to the President and Congress on the Fifth Assessment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative” was approved by PCAST in late August and was released to the public in October.  The 88-page report was prepared by a thirteen member Working Group and includes three important recommendations that are necessary to bring about the focus and direction needed for NNI 2.0 to be successful:

  • While certain elements of the current Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives framework should be maintained, the primary active program‐management structure should be driven by the Federal and OSTP commitment to the concept of nanotechnology Grand Challenges.
  • The Working Group reiterates the need for an ongoing, separate standing committee of cross‐sector nanotechnology experts that advises, but does not evaluate, the nanotechnology activities of the U.S. Government, as well as iterating the need for a functional interagency process via the National Science and Technology Council, the Committee on Technology, and the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee.
  • The Working Group also reiterated the need to assess Federal nanotechnology research and commercialization funding through a more formal system of metrics.

In addition to the three primary recommendations noted above, this review makes additional recommendations aimed at enhancing the transition to NNI 2.0. The review recommends that the National Science Foundation (NSF) expand the NSF Innovation Corps to include a specific focus on entrepreneurship in the nanotechnology area; that with the guidance and support of NSET, the Federal agencies define potential Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation dedicated to nanoscience and nanotechnology as part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation program; and, that Federal agencies extend or create programs that substantially support single investigators for five years to pursue creative, high‐risk research in nanoscience and nanotechnology.

The report may be viewed at



Federal energy policy since the 1970s has focused primarily on ensuring a secure supply of energy while protecting the environment. The federal government supports and intervenes in U.S. energy production and consumption in various ways, such as providing tax incentives, grants, and other support to promote domestic production of energy, as well as setting standards and requirements.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to provide information on federal activities and their influence on U.S. energy production and consumption over the past decade. This report provides information on U.S. production and consumption of fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy from 2000 through 2013 and major factors that influenced energy production and consumption levels. It also provides information on other federal activities that may have influenced aspects of U.S. energy production and consumption from 2000 through 2013 but were not targeted at a specific energy source, as well as information on federal research and development.

According to the studies and reports GAO reviewed, several major factors, including federal activities, influenced U.S. production and consumption of fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy from 2000 through 2013. Examples of these factors include the following:

  • Fossil energy. Advances in drilling technologies enabled economic production of natural gas and crude oil from shale and similar geological formations. These advances led to increases in domestic production of natural gas and crude oil beginning around 2008 and contributed to declines in domestic prices of natural gas, as well as lower prices for crude oil in some regions of the United States. Partly because of lower natural gas prices, domestic coal production decreased in recent years as utilities switched from coal to natural gas for electricity generation.
  • Nuclear energy. Declining prices for a competing energy source—natural gas—may have led to decreases in the production and consumption of nuclear energy in recent years.
  • Renewable energy. Federal tax credits for ethanol and federal policies requiring the use of ethanol in transportation fuels were major factors influencing an eight-fold increase in the production and consumption of ethanol from 2000 to 2013. In addition, state policies requiring the use of renewable energy in electricity production, as well as federal outlays and tax credits for renewable energy producers, were major factors influencing a 30-fold increase and a 19-fold increase in production and consumption of electricity from wind and solar energy, respectively, from 2000 to 2013.

The 120-page report may be read at:



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have released the 2015 Fuel Economy Guide, providing consumers with a valuable resource to help them choose the most fuel-efficient and low greenhouse gas emitting vehicles that meet their needs. In comparison to previous years, the 2015 models include a greater number of fuel efficient and low-emission vehicles in a broader variety of classes and sizes.

The guide provides “best-in-class” lists to help consumers find the most fuel-efficient advanced-technology vehicles as well as the most efficient gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. The best-in-class lists include multiple market segments, from two-seaters to large pickup trucks.

Consumers will find a broad range of information that can be helpful while shopping for a new vehicle — including an estimated annual fuel cost for each vehicle. The estimate is based on the vehicle’s miles per gallon (mpg) rating and national estimates for fuel prices. The online version of the guide, available through, gives consumers a personalized fuel cost estimate based on local gasoline prices and their personal driving habits. The guide includes a greenhouse gas rating (from one to 10) for each model, giving consumers a quick way to identify vehicles with low greenhouse gas emissions.

EPA fuel economy estimates are the best way to compare fuel economy among vehicles. Official fuel economy testing is controlled, repeatable, and accounts for a variety of real-world conditions, like air-conditioning use and a variety of speed and temperature conditions. Individual mileage will vary depending on factors such as driving style, weather, air-conditioning use, and extra weight being carried or towed.

For tips on more fuel efficient driving, check out the gas mileage tips at:

More information, including a complete version of the guide and details on fuel economy labels, are available at and at for mobile devices.

EPA and DOE will update the guide online as more 2015 vehicles become available.



The Department of Energy (DOE) has selected four projects to receive funding for next-generation gasification systems that also reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Awardees will receive approximately $16 million to advance the gasification process, which converts carbon-based materials like coal into syngas for use as power, chemicals, hydrogen, and transportation fuels.

Gasification plants have the potential for greater power generation efficiency and environmental performance than conventional coal-fired plants, and serve as the basis for integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) advanced power generation and co-production plants capable of 90 percent carbon dioxide (CO2) capture. The funded research projects will focus on developing technologies that can significantly reduce the cost of producing hydrogen-rich syngas derived from fossil fuels, enabling coal resources to both improve U.S. economic competitiveness and provide global environmental benefits.

For a more detailed announcement and description of each project, visit:


Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at for daily news and policy developments, including the following:

ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036

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