September 11, 2015
Capitol Update

In this issue:


OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES NEW FLEXIBLE HYBRID ELECTRONICS MANUFACTURING INNOVATION HUB IN SAN JOSE, CA

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter recently announced that the FlexTech Alliance, a public-private manufacturing consortium based in San Jose, California, will lead a new Manufacturing Innovation Institute to secure U.S. leadership in next-generation bendable and wearable electronic devices. Flexible hybrid electronics have the power to unleash wearable devices to improve medical health monitoring and personal fitness; soft robotics to care for the elderly or assist wounded soldiers; and, light weight sensors embedded into the very trellises and fibers of roads, bridges, and, and other structures across the globe.

The Department of Defense is awarding the new Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics to lead a consortium of 162 companies, nonprofits, labs, and universities headquartered in San Jose, CA at the heart of Silicon Valley.

The new institute is the seventh awarded of nine manufacturing innovation institutes already launched by the Administration. Bridging the gap between applied research and product development, each institute brings together companies, universities, other academic and training institutions, and Federal agencies to co-invest in key emerging technology areas that can encourage investment and production in the U.S. 

With a total investment of over $171 million—$75 million in federal funds, and more than $96 million in non-federal contributions—the announcement marks the first manufacturing institute launched that will be headquartered on the West Coast.

Additional information can be found at: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/manufacturing-innovation-competitiveness/


SENATOR MURKOWSKI WELCOMES LATEST EIA OIL EXPORT REPORT; HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE VOTES ON LIFTING BAN

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has welcomed the latest Obama administration report showing that lifting the outdated ban on oil exports would not raise gasoline prices and could help lower them.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released a report on September 1st detailing the economic impact of ending the 1970s-era ban on exporting most U.S.-produced crude oil. The study concluded that allowing oil exports would increase supply and put downward pressure on prices. U.S. gasoline prices are based on the global price of oil rather than the national benchmark. 

The EIA study is the final report in a series on oil exports this year requested by Chairman Murkowski. Previous studies by the EIA covered the U.S. refining and production mismatch and the link between U.S. gasoline prices and the international benchmark price for oil.

The new EIA report is available at: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/

In a related development, on September 10th, House Energy and Power Subcommittee met to markup H.R. 702, a bill to lift the 40-year-old ban on Crude Oil Exports “to adapt to changing crude oil market conditions.” An electronic copy of H.R. 702 can be found on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s website at: http://energycommerce.house.gov/markup/energy-and-power-subcommittee-markup-hr-702-to-adapt-to-changing-crude-oil-market-conditions.  A background memo, amendments, and votes are available at the same link.


SUBCOMMITTEES CONTINUE OVERSIGHT OF NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power and the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy held a joint hearing on Wednesday, September 9th entitled “Oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” The four commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) were the only witnesses:

The hearing examined NRC's long-term budget development and resource planning. Additionally, members examined the proposed rulemaking associated with the Near Term Task Force (NTTF), which was established in response to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident in Japan. The NTTF is tasked with evaluating the incident and developing recommendations for reactors throughout the United States. Ongoing activities related to storage, transportation, and disposal of high-level nuclear waste were examined as well.

In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) said, “I am concerned about the need to appropriately align NRC’s budget and staffing levels with the organization’s workload. Over the previous ten years, NRC’s budget, staff, and backlog of licensing actions have steadily increased while the number of operating reactors and total licensing actions has decreased. These trends are troubling and are not indicative of an organization committed to efficiency. The NRC now has a number of initiatives underway to examine the cause of these trends and recommend a strategy to improve performance. I look forward to hearing how the commission will consider these efforts in an effort to improve the organization’s efficiency.”

For additional information about the hearing, including the witness list and witness testimony, go to: http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearing/oversight-nuclear-regulatory-commission

The Ranking Member’s Memorandum related to the hearing can also be found at: https://democrats-energycommerce.house.gov/sites/democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/files/Memo-EE-NRC-Oversight-2015-9-9.pdf


U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT AWARDS SMALL BUSINESSES $3.2 MILLION FOR INNOVATION RESEARCH

U.S. Commerce Department recently announced that 20 small businesses will receive $3.2 million in grants through federally funded research and development from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The businesses, which range in size from one to 24 employees, will receive Phase I or Phase II funding through NIST's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The awardees are from 15 states and were competitively selected from proposals submitted in response to calls for innovative products to solve specific technology challenges in advanced manufacturing, climate change and clean energy, cyber-physical systems, health care, cybersecurity and technology transfer.
Phase I awardees receive up to $100,000 to establish the merit, feasibility and commercial potential of the proposed research and development. After completing their Phase I projects, awardees may vie for Phase II funding of up to $300,000 to continue their efforts. In Phase III, non-SBIR funds are used for commercialization of the technology.

The list of awardees is available at https://www.commerce.gov/news/press-releases/2015/09/us-commerce-department-gives-small-businesses-32-million-innovation


NSF INVESTS IN DIVERSITY THROUGH PREM AWARDS

With an eye toward improving material science through increased diverse perspectives, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded six Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) awards this year, in its fifth such competition since 2004.

Whether they focus on new laser treatments that may better target cancer cells, or on exploring new materials that could lead to sustainable energy alternatives, PREM awards couple the expertise of NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC) with minority-serving colleges and universities to involve those students in some of the nation's preeminent materials research.

PREM aims to broaden participation and enhance diversity in materials research and education by stimulating formal, long-term, multi-investigator, collaborative research and education partnerships.

While there is an increasing emphasis on STEM education, it still remains a challenge to involve many underrepresented groups of students in these fields. The most recent edition of the Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities Science and Engineering biannual report from NSF's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics shows that less than 10 percent of material scientists are Hispanic. For African Americans, the numbers are even lower, at approximately four to six percent. To review the report, please visit: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2015/nsf15311/digest/

Information on this year's awards is available at: http://nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=135879&org=NSF&from=news

 

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