In this issue:

 

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA ANNOUNCES FIRST GREENHOUSE GAS STANDARDS

On August 9th, President Obama met with industry officials to discuss fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas pollution standards for work trucks, buses, and other heavy duty vehicles. This meeting marked the Administration’s announcement of the standards, which are projected to save American businesses that operate and own these commercial vehicles approximately $50 billion in fuel costs over the life of the program.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the standards in close coordination with key stakeholders. Under the comprehensive new national program, trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 will reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons.

The joint DOT/EPA program will include a range of targets, which are specific to the diverse vehicle types and purposes. The vehicles will be divided into three major categories: combination tractors (semi-trucks); heavy-duty pickup trucks; and, vans, and vocational vehicles (like transit buses and refuse trucks). Within each of those categories, even more specific targets are laid out based on the design and purpose of the vehicle. This flexible structure allows serious but achievable fuel efficiency improvement goals charted for each year and for each vehicle category and type.

By the 2018 model year, the program is expected to achieve significant savings relative to current levels, across vehicle types.  Some examples include:

  • Certain combination tractors – commonly known as big-rigs or semi-trucks – will be required to achieve up to approximately 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by model year 2018, saving up to four gallons of fuel for every 100 miles traveled;
  • For heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, separate standards are required for gasoline-powered and diesel trucks. These vehicles will be required to achieve up to approximately 15 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by model year 2018. Under the finalized standards, a typical gasoline or diesel powered heavy-duty pickup truck or van could save one gallon of fuel for every 100 miles traveled; and,
  • Vocational vehicles – including delivery trucks, buses, and garbage trucks – will be required to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 10 percent by model year 2018. These trucks could save an average of one gallon of fuel for every 100 miles traveled.

For additional information, go to: http://fastlane.dot.gov/2011/08/cafe-trucks.html

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

 

 

NRC CALLS FOR UPDATE OF EPA DECISION MAKING PROCESS

Recognizing the importance of sustainability to its work, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working to create programs and applications in a variety of areas to better incorporate sustainability into decision making at the agency. To further strengthen the scientific basis for sustainability as it applies to human health and environmental protection, the EPA asked the National Research Council (NRC) to provide a framework for incorporating sustainability into the EPA's principles and decision-making.

This framework, “Sustainability and the U.S. EPA,” provides recommendations for a sustainability approach that both incorporates and goes beyond an approach based on assessing and managing the risks posed by pollutants that has largely shaped environmental policy since the 1980s. Although risk-based methods have led to many successes and remain important tools, the report concludes that they are not adequate to address many of the complex problems that put current and future generations at risk, such as depletion of natural resources, climate change, and loss of biodiversity. Moreover, sophisticated tools are increasingly available to address cross-cutting, complex, and challenging issues that go beyond risk management.

The report recommends that EPA formally adopt as its sustainability paradigm the widely used "three pillars" approach, which means considering the environmental, social, and economic impacts of an action or decision. Health should be expressly included in the "social" pillar. EPA should also articulate its vision for sustainability and develop a set of sustainability principles that would underlie all agency policies and programs.

The framework may be read on-line at: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=13152&page=1

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

 

 

SMART GRID PANEL APPROVES SIX STANDARDS FOR CATALOG

The Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) has made the first six entries into its new Catalog of Standards, a technical document now available as a guide for all involved with Smart Grid-related technology. The six standards, all of which were approved previously by the SGIP’s Governing Board, received approval by more than 90 percent of the broader SGIP membership in voting earlier this month.
 
The SGIP, a consensus-based group of more than 675 public and private organizations, was created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to coordinate the development of Smart Grid standards. While the SGIP does not develop or write these standards directly, a vote of approval signifies that its member organizations have agreed on the inclusion of a group of standards in the catalog.
 
The six entries relate to high-priority national standards needed to create a modern, energy-efficient power grid with seamlessly interoperable components. In order to convert today’s power grid—which still functions largely as it did when grids were created in the 19th century—into a power distribution network that can enable the wide use of electric vehicles, as well as incorporate renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, a number of new standards must be established. Among these are the catalog’s first six entries, which include:

  • Internet protocol standards, which will allow grid devices to exchange information;
  • Energy usage information standards, which will permit consumers to know the cost of energy used at a given time;
  • Standards for vehicle charging stations, necessary for ensuring electric vehicles can be connected to power outlets;
  • Use cases for communication between plug-in vehicles and the grid, to help ensure that the vehicles—which will draw heavy power loads—will not place undue strain on the grid;
  • Requirements for upgrading smart meters, which will replace household electric meters; and,
  • Guidelines for assessing standards for wireless communication devices, which will be needed for grid communication but can have far less tolerance for delay or interruption of signals than there is among general data communication devices, such as cell phones.

The six catalog entries cover five of the 19 Priority Action Plans (PAPs) named by grid experts as those issues most necessary to address early for the Smart Grid to function properly. PAPs 0, 1, 2, 10 and 11—the latter of which covers both electric vehicle standards—are now addressed in the catalog.

The catalog is available at: http://collaborate.nist.gov/twiki-sggrid/bin/view/SmartGrid/SGIPCoSStandardsInformationLibrary

A fact sheet with extended lay-language summaries of the six entries is available at: www.nist.gov/smartgrid/sgip-072611-factsheet.cfm.

The full release on the catalog entries is available at: www.nist.gov/smartgrid/sgip-072611.cfm

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

 

 

NEW COMMERCE DEPARTMENT REPORT FINDS GREATER WAGE PARITY, PREMIUM FOR WOMEN IN STEM JOBS

The U.S. Commerce Department's Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) recently issued the second in a series of reports on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs and higher education.

As expected, the report, “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation,” finds there are fewer women than men in STEM jobs and attaining degrees in STEM fields, especially in the field of engineering. Interestingly, that is true despite the fact that the wage premium for women in STEM jobs is higher than that for men and that there is greater income parity between genders in STEM fields than there is in the employment market as a whole.

While women make up 48 percent of the U.S. workforce, only 24 percent hold STEM jobs. Over the past decade, this underrepresentation has remained fairly constant, even as women's share of the college-educated workforce has increased.  A lack of female role models, gender stereotyping, and less family-friendly flexibility in the STEM fields are all named as possible factors contributing to the lesser number of women in STEM jobs.

Women with STEM jobs, however, earned 33 percent more than women in non-STEM jobs in 2009, exceeding the 25 percent earnings premium for men in STEM. Women in STEM also experience a smaller gender wage gap than their counterparts in other fields.

The report is based on the analysis to date from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and Current Population Survey.  In this report, STEM jobs are defined to include professional and technical support occupations in the fields of computer science and mathematics, engineering, and life and physical sciences. The STEM occupation list contains 50 detailed occupation codes.

The full press release is available at: http://www.commerce.gov/news/press-releases/2011/08/03/new-commerce-department-report-finds-greater-wage-parity-premium-wome

The 11-page report may be viewed at: http://www.esa.doc.gov/sites/default/files/reports/documents/womeninstemagaptoinnovation8311.pdf

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

 

 

NASA SELECTS COMMERCIAL PARTNERS FOR FLIGHT OPPORTUNITIES PROGRAM

NASA has selected seven companies to fly technology payloads on commercial platforms in the upper atmosphere.  The awards were made as part of NASA's Flight Opportunities Program, which offers opportunities for companies to fly payloads on commercial aircraft parabolic flight trajectories and on suborbital reusable launch vehicles. 

The combined contracts will total $10 million over a two-year timeframe, allowing NASA to draw on the talents of a variety of commercial space companies.  NASA hopes the flights will spur growth in the commercial space sector and allow technology innovations for carrying a variety of payloads into suborbital space. The program’s long-term goal is to help NASA meet its research and technology needs in a more cost-effective way. 

"Through this catalog approach, NASA is moving toward the goal of making frequent, low-cost access to near-space available to a wide range of engineers, scientists and technologists," said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun. "The government's ability to open the suborbital research frontier to a broad community of innovators will enable maturation of the new technologies and capabilities needed for NASA's future missions in space."

For additional information about this announcement, including the names of the selected companies, go to: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/aug/HQ_11-258_Flight_Opportunities.html

To learn more about the Flight Opportunities Program, please visit:  http://flightopportunities.nasa.gov

Paul Fakes handles public policy-related NASA issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: fakesp@asme.org

 

 

NOMINATIONS SOUGHT FOR APEC ASPIRE PRIZE

The United States announces the APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (“ASPIRE Prize”) to recognize young scientists who have demonstrated: excellence in scientific research, as evidenced through scholarly publication; commitment to cooperation with scientists from other APEC member economies; and, contribution to the year’s selected theme, which for 2011 is green growth.  By recognizing and supporting excellence in scientific research and cooperation among young scientists in the APEC region, ASPIRE supports APEC’s mission to:

  • Enhance economic growth, trade and investment opportunities in harmony with sustainable development, through policies, innovative R&D and technologies, and knowledge sharing;
  • Strengthen international science and technology networks; and,
  • Improve linkages and efficiency between research and innovation, involving and encouraging the potential of small and medium-sized enterprises.

The ASPIRE Prize is expected to be awarded by Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu at the Joint Ministerial Meeting on Energy and Transportation in September.  The winner of the ASPIRE Prize will receive $25,000 USD and a trip to the award ceremony in San Francisco. 

Any U.S. citizen is eligible to be nominated for the ASPIRE Prize.  He/she must be living at the time of his/her nomination and be under the age of 40 as of December 31st of 2011. Because of the very limited number of nominations allowed – only one per APEC member economy – nominations are limited to one nominee from any university or organization. Researchers or faculty members interested in nominating a candidate for the ASPIRE prize, should contact Ms. Erin Johnson at Johnsonel3@state.gov to obtain the nomination form.

 

 

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.

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