In this issue:

 

 

ASME PRESIDENT ROCKWELL TAKES PART IN WHITE HOUSE FORUM ON WOMEN AND THE ECONOMY

ASME President Victoria A. Rockwell was among several accomplished professionals invited to take the stage with President Barack Obama as he addressed the importance of ensuring the economic security of women during a special White House Forum held April 6.

Rockwell and nearly 200 other women professionals from across the United States took part in the White House Forum on Women and the Economy, which focused on the critical role that women play in driving the country’s economic progress. In addition to her role as ASME President, Rockwell is director of investment development at Air Liquide, a leading developer of gases for the industrial, health and environmental sectors.

Following President Obama's speech, Rockwell participated in an hour-long breakout session on education moderated by Cecilia Munoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council, and Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle’s Chron.com website, Rockwell said she was “floating on a bubble” after the experience in Washington, DC, which she called “humbling” and “awe-inspiring.”

In the interview, Rockwell acknowledged that when she started her career, she felt that women were “actively discouraged” from entering professions related to science and engineering. Not wanting to work in a traditional female-skewing field such as nursing or education, Rockwell said she persevered and pursued a career in the male-dominated engineering profession. In fact, the profession employed so few women, Rockwell said, that when she walked onto a construction site early in her career, all of the workers stopped and stared.

Advising young women who want to follow in her footsteps to “stick to their guns,” Rockwell said the engineering profession needs more women in order to increase diversity and “take us to the next level.”

The White House Forum coincided with the release of the White House Council on Women and Girls’ report, “Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward – The Key to an Economy Built to Last.” The new report details a wide range of policies, programs, and legislative initiatives under the Obama administration that are supporting women and girls at all stages of their lives and careers.

The report also highlights some distressing statistics about women in the U.S. workforce, including the fact that women still earn about three-quarters of what a man earns in many professions. According to a U.S. Department of Commerce report released in August, women with jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs earned 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs, resulting in a smaller wage gap.

To that end, President Obama noted that the first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Act, also known as the “Fair Pay Act,” which promotes economic parity among women and men. The President also pointed out that creating the White House Council on Women and Girls was one of his first priorities after taking office.

However, the president observed that there was still much room for improvement. While women account for four out of five degrees in education, he said, they only accounted for two in five business degrees, and fewer than one in four engineering and computer science degrees. Moreover, although women earn more than half of America’s college degrees and own nearly 30 percent of small businesses, they make up only 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs and only 25 percent of the workforce in the science and technical fields.

To read the Chron.com interview with ASME President Rockwell, please visit:. http://blog.chron.com/txpotomac/2012/04/houston-resident-attends-white-house-forum-on-women-and-the-economy/

To review the report, “Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward – The Key to an Economy Built to Last,” please visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/email-files/womens_report_final_for_print.pdf

An  archived webcast of President Obama’s speech at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy is also available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2012/04/06/president-obama-speaks-white-house-forum-women-and-economy

Melissa Carl handles public policy-related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education issues for ASME.  She can be reached at: carlm@asme.org

 

 

DOE RELEASES NEW PLAN FOR RENEWABLE-ENERGY LOAN GUARANTEES

In an April 5th letter to Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, David Frantz, Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Program Office Acting Director provided an update on the status of the loan program. His letter comes in response to an inquiry at a recent ENR hearing about how DOE planned to move forward on providing loans and loan guarantees for the deployment of new technologies. In particular, the letter focuses on the process for making loan guarantees under the 1703 loan program, which provides loan guarantees to cutting edge clean energy projects that, because of the risks involved with newer technologies, are typically unable to obtain conventional bank financing.

Congress first authorized the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program under Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58).  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5) significantly expanded the Secretary’s loan guarantee authority under a newly-created 1705 program. This section authorized the Secretary to issue loan guarantees for renewable energy projects, including those employing non-innovative technologies, which commenced construction no later than September 30, 2011.

Last April’s budget agreement reached by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Boehner and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Reid provided an additional $170 million in loan loss reserve funding to support 1703 loan guarantees that could not be funded under the expiring 1705 loan guarantee program that was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Separately, the bipartisan agreement provided the Department with $1.5 billion in additional loan guarantee authority for projects where the loan loss reserve is funded by the project sponsor.

The 1705 loan program included a September 30, 2011 deadline by which projects had to not only complete due diligence and close on their loans, but also start construction.  Faced with a large volume of worthy projects, but a limited number able to meet this mandate, in May 2011 the Department sent letters to more than three dozen project sponsors, informing them that they would not qualify under 1705, but could be considered in the future for loan guarantees under the 1703 program. 

In the interim, DOE has developed a process for considering pending applications for the 1703 funding.  On April 5th, DOE sent a letter to project sponsors with pending applications that could not be considered for the Recovery Act-funded 1705 program due to eligibility requirements or time constraints around the September 30, 2011 deadline for that program.  These projects will still be given the opportunity to be considered for a loan guarantee under the 1703 program.

The exact number of projects and the total dollar value of the loan guarantees in this 1703 pipeline will depend on the government’s assessment of the risk level of the projects selected.  DOE expects to begin issuing conditional commitments over the next several months after completing a rigorous internal and external review of each application.

Despite the continuing fervor by lawmakers on Capitol Hill, loan guarantees themselves remain a fairly popular program among lawmakers on each side of the aisle. However, some lawmakers continue to chastise the Administration, and particularly Secretary Chu, for not doing enough due diligence before providing loans to riskier technologies, while at the same time for the quick approval of loans to support projects in their districts. 

The letter also provides updates on the progress being made around the country on projects funded by the Department’s loan programs.

To read the April 5th DOE letter to project sponsors, please visit: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/1703_Process_Letter_2012_04_05.pdf)

To review the letter sent to Senators Bingaman and Murkowski, please visit: http://www.doe.gov/articles/update-1703-loan-program

Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: rainsr@asme.org

 

 

ARPA-E AWARDS $43 MILLION FOR TRANSFORMATIONAL ENERGY STORAGE RESEARCH PROJECTS

With his nomination for Under Secretary of Energy stuck in neutral, for now, ASME Fellow and the first Director of the Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Arun Majumdar continues to helm the upstart program as approximately $43 million in funding awards were announced last week for energy storage through two new programs.

First, the Advanced Management and Protection of Energy-storage Devices (AMPED) will fund research of advanced sensing and control technologies to dramatically improve the safety, performance, and lifetime of energy storage systems. These innovations will enable a new generation of electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, and enhance the efficiency and reliability of the U.S. electricity grid. Furthermore, these technologies will also extend the capability of hybrid energy storage modules being developed through a planned joint collaboration by ARPA-E and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. The goal of this partnership will be to enable critical Department of Defense war-fighting capabilities pursuant to an existing Memorandum of Understanding between the Departments of Energy and Defense. Approximately $30 million will be made available for AMPED.

ARPA-E will also start its own Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which are competitive U.S. Government funding programs focused on spurring innovation within the domestic small businesses community. According to the ARPA-E website, this solicitation focuses on five research areas. The two research areas for stationary energy storage include: (1) low-cost, grid-scale storage, particularly for electric distribution systems supporting high local-penetration of electric vehicles with high-rate charging demands, and (2) low-cost storage for consumer-side of the meter applications. The three research areas for transportation energy storage are: (1) new battery chemistries, (2) new battery architectures, and (3) innovative designs for electric storage systems. Approximately $13 million will be made available for this program.

More information about this new funding announcement can be found at:  http://arpa-e.energy.gov/media/news/tabid/83/vw/1/itemid/53/Default.aspx

For more information about the status of Dr. Majumdar’s nomination to be Under Secretary for Energy, please see the April 9th edition of Capitol Update.

Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: rainsr@asme.org

 

 

CANDIDATE SEARCH FOR NSF ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR ENGINEERING UNDERWAY

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has initiated a national search for the NSF Assistant Director for Engineering (ENG). The Assistant Director, ENG, manages a Directorate comprising five divisions: Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems; Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation; Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems; Engineering Education and Centers; and, Industrial Innovation and Partnerships. The Assistant Director also oversees the Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation. Employment may be on a temporary or permanent basis in the Federal Service or by temporary assignment under provisions of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act.

NSF seeks assistance in identifying candidates with the following qualifications: outstanding leadership; a deep sense of scholarship; a grasp of the issues facing the engineering community in the areas of education and research; proficiency in the administration of large-scale facilities and centers; and, the ability to serve effectively as a key member of the NSF senior management team. NSF is especially interested in identifying women, members of minority groups, and persons with disabilities for consideration.

Recommendations should be forwarded to the AD/ENG Screening Committee via e-mail (engsrch@listserv.nsf.gov) or to the following address: National Science Foundation, Office of the Director, Suite 1205, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22230, by June 1, 2012.

Paul Fakes handles public policy-related research and development (R&D) issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: fakesp@asme.org

 

 

NAS STUDY: GREATER FOCUS NEEDED ON METHANE LEAKAGE FROM NATURAL GAS INFRASTRUCTURE

The recent edition of the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” journal featured a report that questions the climate benefit of natural gas-powered cars. The study found that while natural gas-powered cars release less carbon dioxide, the pipes and pumps required to get the fuel to the car leak methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times stronger than carbon dioxide.

In the study’s abstract, the authors note that “natural gas is seen by many as the future of American energy: a fuel that can provide energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the process. However, there has also been confusion about the climate implications of increased use of natural gas for electric power and transportation. We propose and illustrate the use of technology warming potentials as a robust and transparent way to compare the cumulative radiative forcing created by alternative technologies fueled by natural gas and oil or coal by using the best available estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from each fuel cycle (i.e., production, transportation and use).”

“We find that a shift to compressed natural gas vehicles from gasoline or diesel vehicles leads to greater radiative forcing of the climate for 80 or 280 years, respectively, before beginning to produce benefits. Compressed natural gas vehicles could produce climate benefits on all time frames if the well-to-wheels methane leakage were capped at a level 45–70% below current estimates. By contrast, using natural gas instead of coal for electric power plants can reduce radiative forcing immediately, and reducing methane losses from the production and transportation of natural gas would produce even greater benefits.”

The study concludes that there is a need for the natural gas industry and science and engineering community to help obtain better emissions data and for increased efforts to reduce methane leakage in order to minimize the climate footprint of natural gas.

The entire study may be read at: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/04/02/1202407109.full.pdf+html?with-ds=yes

Supporting information is available at: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/04/02/1202407109/suppl/DCSupplemental

Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: rainsr@asme.org

 

 

SURVEY SAYS SCIENCE EDUCATION IS A PRIORITY FOR VOTERS

At its recent annual conference, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) released a new survey that showed “the vast majority of American voters believe improving the quality of science instruction is ‘extremely or ‘very’ important to the nation's ability to compete globally, but a majority grade the quality of such instruction as a ‘C’ or below in this country.” Even when these voters were asked about their local schools (a topic that tends to produce a more optimistic view of educational quality), only three percent of those surveyed graded them as an "A" for the quality of their science teaching. The national survey was conducted in February by Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and queried 800 registered voters.

Attitudes toward the development of common standards in science were also tested by the survey data. Nearly two-thirds, or 62 percent, of those surveyed were supportive of all states having the same science standards at each grade level. The voters also thought the quality of science education in other nations was superior to the U.S., and that the U.S. falls short. In comparing U.S. science education to the science education quality in China, the European Union, Japan, India, and Russia, 56 percent said they believed the U.S. was behind, compared with 23 percent who said they were the same, and 18 percent who said the U.S. is actually ahead.

The survey was commissioned by Achieve, a Washington-based organization formed by governors and corporate leaders that is currently working with a group of states to develop a set of uniform, "next-generation" science standards. Stephen Pruitt, a vice president at Achieve said the following in a press release, "Science teachers have long understood the value to students of a high-quality science education and it's encouraging to see that voters also understand the value of a robust science education—for students as well as for our nation's ability to compete," he said. "This is exactly why 26 states have come together to develop Next Generation Science Standards."

For more information about this survey, please visit: http://www.achieve.org/new-poll-shows-strong-support-improving-science-education

More information about the Next Generation Science Standards can be found at: http://www.nextgenscience.org/

Melissa Carl handles public policy-related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) issues for ASME.  She can be reached at carlm@asme.org  

 

 

ENERGY DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES UP TO $4 MILLION TO DEVELOP WIRELESS CHARGERS FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLES

On April 10th, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced up to $4 million will be available this year to accelerate the development and deployment of wireless charging systems for electric vehicles (EVs). Developing wireless charging systems for light-duty EVs could accelerate the adoption of these energy efficient vehicles by making them more convenient to charge, both at home and away.

Wireless charging technology has the potential to significantly increase the attractiveness and convenience of all-electric vehicles to consumers. In the near term, this funding will accelerate the development of wireless charging technology to provide hands-free, automated charging of parked vehicles. Static wireless charging, or wireless charging when the vehicle is parked, can ensure easy and efficient vehicle charging. Future wireless charging could extend EV range by enabling a driver to charge up during a trip when the vehicle is not in motion, such as when stopped at traffic lights. Wireless charging has the potential to reduce the total energy storage requirements of EVs, unlocking the benefits of lighter and smaller battery packs, lighter vehicles, higher efficiency and longer ranges.

Through this funding opportunity, DOE intends to select up to four projects to research and develop a wireless charging system, integrate it into a production vehicle, and test it in real-world operating conditions. Vehicles equipped with this technology could reach the market this decade.

As part of a planned three-year initiative, DOE will make up to $4 million available in fiscal year 2012 for awards under this funding opportunity. Pending successful completion of project milestones, DOE plans to make additional requests totaling $8 million from Congress, resulting in a total value of up to $12 million over three years for selected projects.

More information, including the application and cost-share requirements, is available DOE’s Funding Opportunity Exchange website (https://eere-exchange.energy.gov/#e590d73a-fe54-4263-afb4-73085e41f67e).

Applications must be submitted through that website to be considered for award. DOE expects to announce selections by summer 2012.

Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: rainsr@asme.org

 

 

DARPA SEEKS ROBOT ENTHUSIASTS TO FACE OFF FOR $2M PRIZE

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) announces the October 2012 launch of its Robotics Challenge.  Teams are sought to compete in challenges involving staged disaster-response scenarios in which robots will have to successfully navigate a series of physical tasks corresponding to anticipated, real-world disaster-response requirements. 

As iconic symbols of the future, robots rank high with flying cars and starships, but basic robots are already in use in emergency response, industry, defense, healthcare and education. DARPA plans to offer a $2 million prize to whomever can help push the state-of-the-art in robotics beyond today’s capabilities in support of the DOD’s disaster recovery mission.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge consists of both robotics hardware and software development tasks. It is DARPA’s position that achieving true innovation in robotics, and thus success in this challenge, will require contributions from communities beyond traditional robotics developers. The challenge is structured to increase the diversity of innovative solutions by encouraging participation from around the world including universities, small, medium and large businesses and even individuals and groups with ideas on how to advance the field of robotics.

To answer questions regarding the Robotics Challenge and provide an opportunity for interested parties to connect, DARPA will hold a virtual Proposers’ Day workshop on April 16th.  This online workshop will introduce interested communities to the effort, explain the mechanics of this DARPA challenge, and encourage collaborative arrangements among potential performers from a wide range of backgrounds.  The meeting is in support of the DARPA Robotics Challenge Broad Agency Announcement. 

More information is available at: http://go.usa.gov/mVj

Paul Fakes handles public policy-related research and development (R&D) issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: fakesp@asme.org

 

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.

EDITOR: Mary James Legatski, ASME Government Relations, 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810, Washington, DC 20036-5104.