In this issue:

 

 

ASME CO-SPONSORS 3rd ANNUAL "DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION FUELS INNOVATION IN STEM" CAPITOL HILL DAY

On March 21-22, 2012, ASME co-sponsored the 2012 “Diversity and Inclusion Fuels Innovation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)” Capitol Hill Day.  The 2012 Capitol Hill Day events consisted of training for participants and a Capitol Hill reception on March 21st, followed by a Capitol Hill breakfast and Congressional visits on March 22nd.  This is the third year that ASME has co-sponsored the SWE-led event.

The training began with SWE Government Relations and Public Policy Chair Karen Horton providing attendees with an overview of current public policy issues related to women and STEM, including a discussion of the current tight fiscal climate on Capitol Hill.  Then Dr. Bevlee A. Watford, Chair of the Diversity Committee of the American Society for Engineering Education, followed and shared with attendees ASEE’s perspective, including the need to better retain more women and under-represented minority engineering faculty.  NASA Administrator Charles Bolden then stopped by to show NASA’s support for the event, and also spoke about the importance of retention.  Next, a Ph.D. by training, Dr. Libby O’Hare, Legislative Assistant for Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), offered some tips to attendees on how to talk to Congressional staff, and more insight into the workings of a Congressional office.   

SWE Government Relations and Public Policy Chair-Elect Alexis McKittrick then presented the Congressional visit talking points, which highlighted the group’s support of the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF), especially the gender-focused programs like ADVANCE.   Finally, Brenda Manuel, Associate Administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity, National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Rachel Bird, Legislative Assistant, The Honorable Christopher Coons (D-DE); and Lauren Van Wazer, Assistant Director for Cybersecurity, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy spoke to attendees, and delivered perspectives from the Administration and Congress.

During the March 21st reception, several Congressional champions of STEM and diversity-related issues provided remarks.  These champions included:  2008 SWE President’s Award recipient, The Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX); The Honorable Judy Biggert (R-IL); The Honorable Robert Dold (R-IL); The Honorable Daniel Lipinski (D-IL); and the Honorable Silvestre Reyes (D-TX). 

On March 22nd, SWE Executive Director and CEO Betty Shanahan and SWE Director of Regions Linda Thomas began the breakfast by providing attendees with a brief history of SWE activities in the public policy arena.  This presentation was intended to motivate attendees before their Congressional visits, and SWE plans to incorporate some of the co-sponsors’ advocacy stories in the future.  SWE Government Relations and Public Policy Committee Chair Karen Horton also reviewed the Congressional talking points with attendees, and attendees had time to break into small groups to prepare for the subsequent visits with their Congressional representatives before adjourning.

ASME leader Monica Moman-Saunders represented ASME at the event, and encouraged all co-sponsoring organizations to endorse ASME’s recently updated general position paper, “Diversity and Inclusion in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce: A Strategic Global Imperative. 

In addition to ASME, the following twenty-eight STEM and diversity organizations co-sponsored the event: American Association of University Women; ABET; American Institute of Chemical Engineers; American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering; American Nuclear Society; American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers; American Society of Civil Engineers; American Society for Engineering Education; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers; the Association for Women in Science; Automation Federation; IEEE-USA; Institute of Industrial Engineers; International Society of Automation; MentorNet; National Action Council of Minorities in Engineering; NAMEPA; National Center for Women and Information Technology; National GEM Consortium; National Organization for Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, Inc.; National Society of Black Engineers; National Society of Professional Engineers; SAE International; Society of Manufacturing Engineers; Society of Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc.; SPIE- The International Society for Optics and Photonics; The Optical Society; and, Women in Engineering Pro-Active Network.

For more information about the 2012 “Diversity and Inclusion Fuels Innovation in STEM” Capitol Hill Day, please contact Melissa Carl, Government Relations Manager, at carlm@asme.org .

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

 

 

ASME, IEEE, NSF, AND DISCOVER CONVENE NOONTIME CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING ON 'GEOTHERMAL'

ASME recently partnered with IEEE-USA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and DISCOVER magazine to convene a congressional briefing entitled, “The Road to the New Energy Economy: Geothermal.”  This is the third in a new series of briefings planned for 2012 that highlight various energy technologies.  For more information about the previous briefing, which focused on wind energy, please see the March 5, 2012 Edition of Capitol Update.  

Speakers for this event were:

  • David Blackwell, W.B. Hamilton Professor of Geophysics in the Roy Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Southern Methodist University;
  • James Faulds, Director, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, and a Professor at the University of Nevada-Reno; and
  • Karl Gawell, Executive Director, Geothermal Energy Association. 

 During the briefing, Faulds filled in the audience on the basic figures related to geothermal; i.e. it provides 3,100 megawatts of electricity in nine states, roughly half of all renewable power in the U.S.  There are 146 current projects in 15 states that are underway, complimenting eight enhanced geothermal systems.  Blackwell focused his remarks on the geological data on record that supports the theory that geothermal energy could be harnessed in some parts of the country to provide reliable, and affordable, base-load power.  Blackwell even went so far as to proclaim that geothermal could satisfy the country’s full energy needs “many times over,” if properly harvested.  Finally, Gawell focused on the policy aspects of geothermal, suggesting that on a longer cost-curve, it becomes highly competitive with more traditional resources and technologies.    

This event was videotaped and will soon be available to view online at: http://discovermagazine.com/interactive/new-energy-economy/natural-gas/main.html#/home

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

 

 

EPA PROPOSES FIRST CARBON POLLUTION STANDARD FOR FUTURE POWER PLANTS

On March 27th, the EPA proposed the first Clean Air Act standard for carbon pollution from new power plants.  This was in response to a landmark ruling, Massachusetts v. the Environmental Protection Agency (2007), by the Supreme Court of the United States.  The case ordered the EPA to declare that carbon dioxide emissions pose a threat to human health and that they possessed the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions as an air pollutant.

The proposed rulemaking only affects new generating units that will be built in the future, and does not apply to existing units already operating or units that will start construction over the next 12 months. 

Under fire by some Members of Congress who remain concerned that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s regulatory authority is undermining the country’s nascent economic recovery, the EPA has recently quietly rolled back a proposed air toxics rule, as well as reopened the comment period for the Most Available Control Technology (MACT) for boilers. This announcement is a departure from EPA’s current strategy.

Prior to developing this standard, EPA engaged in an extensive and open public process to gather the latest information to aid in developing a carbon pollution standard for new power plants. The agency is seeking additional comment and information, including public hearings, and will take that input fully into account as it completes the rulemaking process. EPA’s comment period will be open for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.

Meanwhile, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, after hearing arguments from dozens of plaintiffs seeking to challenge the EPA’s tailoring rule, the GHG endangerment finding and other EPA provisions, is expected to hand down an opinion early this summer.    

For additional information on the proposed carbon pollution standard, please visit: http://epa.gov/carbonpollutionstandard/

The Congressional Republican response to the EPA’s proposals can be found at:http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=54830a3e-802a-23ad-4512-595b3c350851 or http://science.house.gov/press-release/committee-chairmen-admonish-presidents-proposed-regulation-increase-cost-energy.

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

 

 

LEGISLATION TO ENSURE STATES REGULATE HYDRAULIC FRACTURING INTRODUCED WHILE USGS SAYS 'REMARKABLE' SPATE OF MAN-MADE QUAKES LINKED TO DRILLING

On March 28th, Senate Environment and Public Works (EPA) Committee Ranking Member Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), introduced the “Fracturing Regulations are Effective in State Hands (FRESH) Act,” a bill that would give states the sole power to regulate hydraulic fracturing within their boundaries. Initial co-sponsors include: Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, David Vitter (R-LA), Jeff Sessions (AL), John Cornyn (R-TX), James Risch (R-ID), and John Hoeven (R-ND). Companion legislation will be introduced by Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) in the House.

In summary, the FRESH Act would:

  • Make clear, that States have the sole authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on any land within their borders; and,
  • Requires hydraulic fracturing on federal lands to comply with the state laws of the federal lands are located. Activities related to hydraulic fracturing are already regulated at the federal level under a variety of environmental statutes, including portions of the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Clean Air Act.

To read the press release issued at the bill’s introduction, please visit: http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=5b3a5418-802a-23ad-45d7-fc3874ced3a4&Region_id=&Issue_id

The legislation itself is available at: http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=5ff4f6a7-16ea-4837-8497-add4b60e93e6

Also this week, a team of researchers from the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) released an abstract of a paper to be presented next month at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America in San Diego.  “Are Seismicity Rate Changes in the Midcontinent Natural or Manmade?”  notes “a remarkable increase in the rate of M 3 and greater earthquakes is currently in progress in the US midcontinent. The average number of M >= 3 earthquakes/year increased starting in 2001, culminating in a six-fold increase over 20th century levels in 2001. Is this increase natural or manmade?”

The USGS researchers conclude that “a naturally-occurring rate change of this magnitude is unprecedented outside of volcanic settings or in the absence of a main shock, of which there were neither in this region. While the seismicity rate changes described here are almost certainly manmade, it remains to be determined how they are related to either changes in extraction methodologies or the rate of oil and gas production.”

The abstract may be read in its entirety.

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

 

 

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES NEW FUNDING FOR BIOMASS R&D INITIATIVE

On March 22nd, the White House announced up to $35 million over three years to support research and development (R&D) in advanced biofuels, bioenergy and high-value bio-based products. The projects will be funded through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), a joint program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Energy Department (DOE), that will help develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass and increase the availability of renewable fuels and bio-based products that can help replace the need for gasoline and diesel in vehicles and diversify the nation’s energy portfolio.

For Fiscal Year (FY) 2012, applicants seeking BRDI funding must propose projects that integrate science and engineering research in the following three technical areas that are critical to the broader success of alternative biofuels production:

  • Feedstock Development: Funding will support research, development and demonstration activities for improving biomass feedstocks and their supply, including the harvest, transport, preprocessing, and storage necessary to produce biofuels and bio-based products.
  • Biofuels and Bio-based Products Development: Research, development and demonstration activities will support cost-effective technologies to increase the use of cellulosic biomass in the production of biofuels and bio-based products. Funding will also support the development of a wide range of technologies to produce various bio-based products, including animal feeds and chemicals that can potentially increase the economic viability of large-scale fuel production in a bio-refinery.
  • Biofuels Development Analysis: Projects will develop analytical tools to better evaluate the effects of expanded biofuel production on the environment and to assess the potential of using federal land resources to sustainably increase feedstock production for biofuels and bio-based products.

Integrating multiple technical areas in each project will encourage collaborative problem-solving approaches, enable grantees to identify and address knowledge gaps, and facilitate the formation of research consortia.

Subject to annual appropriations, USDA and DOE plan to contribute up to $35 million over three years for this year’s BRDI solicitation. This funding is expected to support five to seven projects over three to four years. A description of the solicitation, eligibility requirements, and application instructions is available at https://www.fedconnect.net/
and http://www.grants.gov/ under Reference Number DE-FOA-0000657. Applications are due April 23, 2012, and must be submitted electronically. It is anticipated that applicants who submit completed applications will be notified of the results by June 15, 2012.

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

 

 

NASA SHOULD PHASE OUT LOWER-PRIORITY AERONAUTICS ACTIVITIES, FOCUS ON HIGHER RISK, HIGHER PAYOFF PROJECTS: NRC REPORT

At a time when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) aeronautics funding is at a historic low, the agency needs to restart its highly successful flight research program, rather than devote most of its efforts to small-scale research, says a new report from the National Research Council (NRC).  To accomplish this, the report says the agency should phase out lower-priority aeronautics activities and select two to five programs with the greatest potential.  Because flight research is a vital tool for aeronautics and has been neglected in recent years, NASA should ensure that each of these projects has a defined path to in-flight testing and that funding will be available to complete the in-flight research portion of the project in a timely manner.  The report also urges improved communication and collaboration with key stakeholders in government and industry.

NASA's aeronautics program lacks the resources to accomplish the 51 high-priority goals it was urged to pursue in the most recent Research Council decadal survey, the report notes.  However, given current budget pressures, NASA appears to be avoiding investments in flight research due to the costs and risks.  The loss of flight research capabilities -- which are a vital tool for developing technology, proving and calibrating other research, and convincing industry, regulators, and the public that new inventions in aeronautics are effective and safe -- has hindered progress throughout NASA's aeronautics program.  Restoring flight research and accelerating progress will require strategic direction from NASA headquarters, careful leadership, and tough decisions.  It will also require NASA to cull its lower-priority aeronautics activities in order to free up funds.

In addition to the overwhelming amount of small-scale aeronautics projects at the agency, the report found that NASA has initiated many projects with no clear road map for how they would eventually be tested in the environment in which they would operate.  Therefore, once the agency determines its top two to five projects, each should be given a defined path to flight testing that includes details of the vehicle to be used for flight research and ensures that funding will be available for this research stage. 

The report examines case studies in three areas -- environmentally responsible aviation such as highly fuel-efficient aircraft, supersonics, and hypersonics -- as examples of programs where NASA already possesses the core research to make significant progress, provided the agency can allocate resources for the flight research phase.

To further enhance the agency's aeronautics progress in the current budget environment, the report emphasizes the need for collaboration with other governments, other U.S. agencies, and commercial companies engaged in aeronautics research.  NASA should aggressively pursue collaboration and develop a formal process for regularly soliciting input from outside groups to assure its flight research programs are relevant to national needs. 

The report, “Recapturing NASA's Aeronautics Flight Research Capabilities,” is available at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13384

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

 

 

BUILDING THE NATIONAL NETWORK FOR MANUFACTURING INNOVATION WORKSHOP SET FOR APRIL 25TH

A workshop on Building the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation will be held on April 25th at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. This regional workshop, first in a series to be held across the nation, will launch the public-private effort to design the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) as proposed in the President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2013.

Participants from industry, academia, state and local governments, economic development organizations and other stakeholders will learn about the principles and concepts motivating this national initiative to address a strategic gap in the U.S. innovation system.  The envisioned network will connect research discoveries and budding ideas for tomorrow’s technologies and products with the U.S. manufacturers of today, as well as with the start-ups sprouting on the horizon.

Most of the workshop will be devoted to interactive sessions designed to solicit ideas on how to best structure the NNMI and its regional hubs—Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation (IMIs).  The President’s FY2013 budget requests $1 billion to create up to 15 IMIs that will bring together industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies, and states to accelerate innovation by investing in industrially-relevant manufacturing technologies with broad applications and to support education and training of an advance manufacturing workforce.  As envisioned, each IMI will serve as a regional hub of manufacturing excellence, providing the innovation infrastructure to support regional manufacturing and ensuring that our manufacturing sector is a key pillar in an economy that is built to last.

Advance on-line registration is required, and will begin April 2 and end April 20, 2012. Space is limited and registration will be on a first-come first-served basis

Additional information is available at http://manufacturing.gov/amp/event_042512.html

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

 

 

SS&T COMMITTEE APPROVES NEW RANKING SUBCOMMITTEE MEMBER

Last week, the Democratic Caucus of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology selected Rep. Jerry F. Costello (D-IL) to serve as Ranking Member for the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics and selected Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) to serve on the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education and the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. The changes were subsequently approved by the full Committee.
 
Mr. Costello had been serving as Acting Ranking Member of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee during Rep. Gabrielle Giffords absence and since her resignation.  Ms. Bonamici was recently appointed to the Committee after being elected in a special election to fill a vacant seat.
 
Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, “I am very pleased that Mr. Costello will continue to serve as Ranking Member. He has done an excellent job in Ms. Giffords’ stead, and I know that he will continue working to sustain and enhance the nation’s space and aeronautics programs.  I look forward to working with Ms. Bonamici on the important issues in front of her new Subcommittees.”

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

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

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.