In this issue:

 

 

SENATE VOTES TO END ETHANOL TAX CREDITS

In perhaps the most telling sign of both the nation’s economic woes and the seriousness of the discussions among lawmakers regarding budget deficits and the country’s fiscal future; lawmakers in the Senate voted yesterday 73-27 to adopt an amendment introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Tom Coburn (R-OK) to effectively repeal the $5 billion blender’s tax credit enjoyed by industry as part of the nation’s ethanol mandate. 

“The 73 votes sent a powerful message that the days of big subsidies for ethanol are coming to a close. We must be serious about addressing the debt and deficit, and this is a good first step,” said Sen. Feinstein.

The measure was adopted as an amendment to the “Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011,” S 782, would eliminate both the 45-cents-per-gallon tax credit that refiners get for blending ethanol in gasoline, as well as the 54-cents-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol.

Ethanol also is mandated by provisions contained in the Energy Independence and Security Act (P.L. 110-140).  The law mandates that 36 billion gallons of biofuels must be in use by the country by 2022.  The House has not yet followed suit, although House Appropriators did manage to successfully adopt an amendment to the fiscal year 2012 agriculture appropriations bill, HR 2112, by a vote of 283-128, which would prohibit the use of funds for the construction of an ethanol blender pump or an ethanol storage facility. 

For more information on S.782 please click here http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:S.782:

To read a press release from Sen. Feinstein’s office please click here http://feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=NewsRoom.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=9a54e8a4-5056-8059-76e3-efd0601aed58

To read a press release from Sen. Coburn’s office please click here http://coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/rightnow?ContentRecord_id=68e5a358-71ed-42e0-91ac-554891df942c

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

 

 

WHITE HOUSE RELEASES "A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR THE 21ST CENTURY GRID: ENABLING OUR SECURE ENERGY FUTURE"

On June 13th, the White House released a 108-page report entitled “A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid: Enabling Our Secure Energy Future,” which specifies various smart grid initiatives intended to modernize, upgrade and transform the American electricity grid. The report was prepared by the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). Its release coincide with a meeting at the White House where several high-level administrators, private-sector leaders and other innovators  gathered from across the nation to learn of the new initiatives surrounding the collaborative. The initiatives include $250 million in loans for smart-grid technology deployment.

At a time when budgets are tight for the foreseeable future, this report is aimed at closely monitoring and guiding energy policy. It also clearly explains where the newly budgeted federal dollars will be going and what the administration hopes to achieve.

The report outlines in detail four aspects of smart-grid policy based on a foundation set up in the “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140).” Securing the U.S. power grid is one of four pillars the policy framework is based upon; the others are to:

  • Enable cost-effective smart grid investments;
  • Unlock the potential for innovation in the electric sector; and,
  • Empower consumers to make informed decisions.

The policy report aims to set up a framework for implementing that technology efficiently, securing the connected power grid from cyber threats, and creating an energy framework that will put more control in the hands of consumers using energy.

To achieve security, the report proposes several policy actions. The first is to continue to develop open standards and guidelines by collaborating with the private sector companies that control much of the energy infrastructure. The report also recommends the implementation of performance measurements to advance cybersecurity-including risk management, regular evaluations, and ongoing monitoring.

Data management and security are key facets of the framework's pillar to empower consumers to make informed decisions about their power needs and consumption. The report proposes policy around data standards and requirements to make secure energy-consumption data available online to all customers as a better way to allow them to manage their own data.

To facilitate both data management and security, the White House also is suggesting policy allowing customers to permit third-party access to their data. This will facilitate single sign-on to websites that will allow them to view their energy-usage data alongside other information, according to the report.

The press release is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/smart-grid-press-release-6-13-2011.pdf

A fact sheet is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/smart-grid-fact-sheet-6-13-2011.pdf

The report may be viewed at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/nstc-smart-grid-june2011.pdf

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

 

 

SUBCOMMITTEE REVIEWS SURFACE TRANSPORTATION R&D PRIORITIES TO MAXIMIZE TAXPAYER INVESTMENTS

On June 14th, the House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) Committee’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing to review the research, development, and technology (RD&T) activities of the Department of Transportation (DOT). A diverse panel of witnesses weighed in on issues related to funding levels, prioritization of current research initiatives, and maximizing the efficiency of research activities.

“Advancements in materials and technology can help achieve long-term cost savings by reducing congestion, and improving the durability and lifespan of our transportation projects,” said Subcommittee Chairman Ben Quayle (R-AZ).  “It is therefore critical that we find a way to maintain a healthy, substantive research base behind our state and local transportation initiatives.”

DOT annually supports more than $600 million in RD&T deployment activities focused on surface modes of transportation (rail, transit, motor carrier and highway), representing approximately one percent of federal expenditures on highways.  Witnesses debated whether the long-term research needs of the nation are being adequately addressed.  In November 2008, the Transportation Research Board produced a report making a number of recommendations for change to highway research programs, including improved engagement of the research community in the priority-setting process and subjecting research programs to merit-review.  While supporting a competitive approach, several Members also stressed the need for continuity of research investments, particularly within the University Transportation Center (UTC) program.  DOT recently announced changes to the program that will affect fiscal year 2011 funding for all 59 existing UTCs, as well as several other research programs.

The pending surface transportation reauthorization presents an opportunity to ensure transportation RD&T activities are aligned with national transportation priorities and to examine how these initiatives will further the states’ ability to incorporate transformational research results into their transportation systems.

The hearing charter, Chairman’s opening statement and written testimony of the hearing’s witnesses are available at http://science.house.gov/hearing/technology-and-innovation-subcommmittee-hearing-transportation-rd

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

 

 

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT SUBCOMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON DOE CLEAN TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS

The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held a hearing on June 15th to examine the Department of Energy’s (DOE) clean technology programs. The Subcommittee heard from three witnesses: ASME fellow Dr. Arun Majumdar, Director, DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency; Dr. Henry Kelly, Acting Assistant Secretary, DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; and, Mr. David Frantz, Director, Loan Guarantee Program Office, U.S. Department of Energy.

ARPA-E was authorized under the bipartisan “America COMPETES Act” with strong bipartisan support; however, record budget deficits and sluggish economic growth have cast a cloud over all government programs.  On Capitol Hill, lawmakers have also used the first six months of the 112th Session of Congress to conduct oversight to identify areas for potential savings within government. 

Given the budgetary climate, some members expressed concerns over the relative prioritization of these programs and pointed to instances of possible waste or mismanagement of these funds.  In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD) articulated his concerns with the focus and direction of DOE’s clean tech programs. “While we have only begun to review this spending in detail, indications of wasteful, duplicative, and inappropriate spending abound, and are cause for great concern,” Chairman Harris said. “At a more fundamental level, I believe the growing attention to and importance of energy policy warrants more careful consideration of the appropriate role of government in energy technology development.”

Ranking Member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) struck a more supportive tone with the programs., “Investments in EERE, ARPA-E, and the Loan Guarantee Program serve to strengthen U.S. scientific and economic leadership as they advance innovation in a wide range of technology areas, support the next generation of scientists, and technology leaders, seed the industries of tomorrow, and ultimately lay the groundwork for a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”

To read Rep. Johnson’s entire statement please click here  http://democrats.science.house.gov/press-release/department-energy-programs-critical-us-global-race-clean-energy-technology

To read Rep. Harris’ complete opening statement please click here  http://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/hearings/061511_Harris.pdf

The hearing charter, as well as the written testimony of the three witnesses, may be viewed at http://science.house.gov/hearing/energy-and-environment-subcommittee-hearing-doe-clean-technology-programs

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

 

 

THE AMERICAN ENERGY INITIATIVE: PIPELINE SAFETY OVERSIGHT HEARING

The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a tenth day of hearings on “The American Energy Initiative” on Thursday, June 16th.  This hearing focused on pipeline safety oversight. Pipeline safety and integrity are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). PHMSA has promulgated a comprehensive set of pipeline safety regulations applicable to hazardous liquid and natural gas pipelines which set standards on the construction, operation, and spill response for these pipelines.

PHMSA regulations, oversight, and enforcement have maintained a significant degree of safety over the pipeline industry, several major accidents have occurred over the past year. The Subcommittee is awaiting the completion of the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigations regarding these serious incidents and will then review lessons learned from those investigations with an eye towards mitigating the risk of recurrence and implementing strong response measures in the case of a spill or other pipeline safety failure to limit risk to individuals and communities and hold accountable those responsible.

Witnesses before the Subcommittee were asked to address the following questions:

  • What recommendations do PHMSA and stakeholders have to enhance current pipeline safety laws and regulations?
  • What important lessons have been learned from major pipeline accidents over the past year?
  • Is legislation needed to ensure that similar such accidents do not occur?
  • What activities, operational and regulatory oversights, or technical failures cause the most pipeline accidents and how might state and federal action prevent them?
  • How have recent domestic oil and natural gas discoveries impacted pipeline construction activity and safety?

As reported in the May 9th, 2011 Edition of Capitol Update, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee passed marked up S. 275, the “Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 (PTSI Act),” in early May.  PTSI Act would reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) within the Department of Transportation (DOT) for fiscal years (FYs) 2011 through 2014.   

The background memorandum, as well as the written statements of the witnesses, is available at http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearings/hearingdetail.aspx?NewsID=8683

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

 

 

SS&T COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON "STEM EDUCATION

The House SS&T Committee held a hearing on June 16th to hear from participants in ExploraVision, a science contest for kindergarten through 12th grade sponsored by Toshiba and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). Students in grades three, six, seven and 10 were among the hearing’s panelists. Thursday’s hearing was the first in a series that the SS&T Committee plans to hold to address science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

Now in its 19th year, ExploraVision is a science competition that encourages K-12 students to work in groups of two to four assisted by a teacher and a mentor to simulate real research and development teams. Students are asked to research a technology of interest and explore what that technology could be like 20 years from now. Teams investigate how their visions of technology could work and what breakthroughs are necessary to make their ideas become reality. Since 1992, more than 287,000 students have competed in this hands-on competition.

ExploraVision is designed for students of all interest, skill, and ability levels. The competition is open to students enrolled in public, private, or home school in the United States and Canada. Students compete in four entry categories: Primary Level (Grades K-3); Upper Elementary Level (Grades 4-6); Middle Grade Level (Grades 7-9); and, High School Level (Grades 10-12). Judges rate teams on creativity, scientific accuracy, communication, and feasibility of vision.

Following their testimony, the students, their parents and coaches, along with the other members of the eight winning competition teams, participated in a science fair at which the students presented prototypes of their projects.

For additional information on the program, please visit www.exploravision.org/

To read the hearing charter please click here http://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/hearings/061611_charter.pdf

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

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