ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Washington State Governor Proposes Carbon Market, Fuel Standards, Clean Energy Funds.

Bloomberg News  (12/17, Doan) reports Washington Gov. Jay Inslee “proposed a carbon market, a statewide fuel standard and $60 million dedicated to clean energy projects” to battle global warming, stating that “I believe it’s our destiny to lead in clean energy.” The governor’s website stated the plan “would generate about $1 billion annually.”

Reuters  (12/18, Carroll) reports Gov. Inslee’s program will involve capping carbon amounts emitted by large businesses and fuel distributors, and give companies options to curb carbon emissions, purchase carbon permits via state auctions, or purchase those permits on the open market. Reuters notes the proposal may be difficult to pass through Washington’s GOP-controlled Senate. Reuters reports that Gov. Inslee will also introduce a low-carbon fuel standard that would force fuel producers to reduce carbon content in their fuels.

According to the AP  (12/17), money raised from the carbon market will be used to “pay for transportation projects, education-funding requirements imposed by the state Supreme Court, and assist low-income families and industries that are most affected by higher energy costs.” The AP notes that with legislatures facing a “projected budget gap of more than $2 billion,” they may find “it’s better to tax pollution than voters.” State Sen. Doug Ericksen (R) called the proposal “‘a general fund tax increase’ that will hurt working families and businesses.”

The Tacoma (WA) News Tribune  (12/17, Shannon) reports that the governor’s aides stated the “cap-and-trade fees” associated with “Carbon Pollution Accountability Act” will only apply to “those polluters emitting more than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases” per year. Gov. Inslee stated the plan was necessary for Washington to “meet emissions-reductions targets…written into state law in 2008.”

Higher Education

Rowan Engineering School Receives $15 Million Donation.

The Philadelphia Inquirer  (12/18, Lai) reports that Rowan University will receive $15 million from the Henry M. Rowan Family Foundation to endow its engineering school, to be renamed the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering. The money will arrive in $1 million blocs. Since the Rowan family’s initial 1992 pledge of $100 million, its endowment has grown from less than $1 million to $180 million, enrollment has increased by five thousand, and new facilities have been established. University officials consider the engineering school one of its best assets.

ED To Release College Rating Plan Friday.

Inside Higher Ed  (12/17) reports that according to ED sources, the department is expected to “release a much-anticipated outline of its college ratings system on Friday,” noting that the draft “includes the metrics on which colleges would be rated by the federal government.” The piece notes that the draft had been expected next spring, but that ED delayed releasing it twice. The article adds that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell said “earlier this month that the draft outline would not include the names of specific colleges or universities, nor would it show how institutions perform under the draft metrics.”

Politico  (12/18, Emma) also reports on the impending release of the rating plan in it’s “Morning Education” blog, noting that “college presidents and higher education lobbyists have some burning questions” about what for the ratings will take. The piece notes that another “contentious question” regards whether the salaries of graduates will be considered, since though the Administration “has repeatedly indicated that it’s an important measure of a college’s success…no one wants to penalize institutions that focus on preparing students for relatively low-paying jobs or that encourage graduates to enter public service.”

Civil Rights, Consumer Groups Tell Duncan Corinthian Deal Will Hurt Students.

Bloomberg News  (12/18, Lauerman) reports that a coalition of groups including the NAACP and advocacy groups for students and consumers have written to Education Secretary Arne Duncan to say that students at schools owned by Corinthian Colleges Inc. “will be hurt by the planned sale of 56 campuses to college-loan debt collector Educational Credit Management Corp.” The letter complains that students at affected schools will not be allowed to discharge their debt, “even though multiple federal and state agencies have alleged Corinthian inflated its job placement rates.” The article quotes ED spokeswoman Dorie Nolt saying in an email that during the process of dismantling Corinthian, “our focus has been on making sure students and American taxpayers are protected.” The Orange County (CA) Register  (12/18, Orange County (CA), Register) also covers this story, following on Bloomberg’s article.

Noting that signatories include the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the Institute for College Access and Success, and the Service Employees International Union, the Chronicle of Higher Education  (12/18, Thomason) reports that the groups laid out a number of conditions which ECMC should meet. Their letter “raises a number of concerns, including reports that ECMC, which has a student-loan-servicing arm, has run roughshod over borrowers.” In addition to Duncan, the letter was addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray. Inside Higher Ed  (12/18) also covers this story.

#ASEEYoADiversity Three-minute video– Karan Watsoni: Minority programs are necessary until our colleges change

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November Prism Online – Now Open to Public
The cover story, “Corporate Blinders,” presents an engineering ethics case study.

Research and Development

NASA Delays Decision On What Form ARM Will Take.

The Newport News (VA) Daily Press  (12/17, Dietrich) reports that on Wednesday, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot stated that he needed more time tow decide between two NASA proposals for the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), one headed by researchers at the Langley Research Center. Lightfoot said, “Honestly, I expected to make a decision today. … [The teams] made the decision really hard. … They both had great solutions.” The article notes that while the two proposals differ, each have “new technologies such as solar electric propulsion, approach sensors and docking mechanisms with NASA’s new Orion crew capsule.” According to the article, the option headed by Langley is $100 million more expensive and more complex than the other option, which was a concern for Lightfoot. However, Lightfoot noted, “The challenge we’re having is, while” Langley’s option is “more complex, it also demonstrates a lot more of the technologies we’re going to need.”

SPACE  (12/17, Kramer) reports that during a news conference, Lightfoot said, “I was so impressed with our teams and what they did. … They’re all focused on getting these technologies ready to go so that we can start this pioneering piece and get humans beyond low-Earth orbit.” A final decision on what path to take is expected “by early 2015.”

According to Space News  (12/17, Foust, Subscription Publication), Lightfoot said that NASA Administrator Charles Bolden “agreed” with the finding “to ask the teams to look into additional details about their concepts” and put off a final decision. Lightfoot said, “It was just close. … We needed more information in a couple of areas to make sure we were making the right call here. … It’s two or three weeks well spent for the teams to bring back some clarifications around a couple of areas we want to understand more. … Taking two or three weeks now is not going to change the overall schedule.”

NBC News  (12/17, Boyle) also covers the story.


Innotec Offers $500 Reward For Engineer Referrals.

MLive  (12/18, Martinez) reports “Innotec Corp. is offering $500 to anyone who helps” the company bring in one of the up to 50 engineers they are seeking over the next two years through a program “dubbed ‘Build More.’” With the recent boom in the job market for engineers, Steve Deters, Innotec’s human relations director stated “normal recruiting methods just are not enough anymore, so we’re trying an innovative way to crowd source engineers.”

Industry News

Frontier Solar Contract With SUNY Could Lead To Company Plant In Buffalo.

The Buffalo (NY) News  (12/18) reports that state officials “hailed” an agreement with Japan’s Solar Frontier “to supply solar modules” for a SUNY Polytechnic Institute building that was a “key step in building a relationship” with the company and could lead Solar Frontier to open a “major solar panel factory in Buffalo.” Alain Kaloyeros, SUNY Polytechnic’s CEO stated that Solar Frontier has “expanded its thoughts on a possible factory in Buffalo” from a plan that would have employed around “250 research, development and manufacturing jobs” to plans that “could be ‘many times’ bigger.”

Engineering and Public Policy

New York To Ban Fracking.

In a move that is being portrayed in the media as a big win for environmentalists, New York state is expected to ban fracking. While some stories focused on the public health aspects of the move, others attributed it to political motives.

The AP  (12/18, Esch) reports that in an announcement on Wednesday, New York Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said he is recommending such a ban, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) “responded that he would defer to Martens and Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker on the decision.” Martens said that the Department of Environmental Conservation “will put out a final environmental impact statement early next year” and follow it up with “an order prohibiting fracking.”

The New York Times  (12/17, A1, Mckinley, Subscription Publication) reports that the move ends “years of uncertainty by concluding that the controversial method of extracting gas from deep underground could contaminate the state’s air and water and pose inestimable public-health risks.” The decision comes “amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.” The Times adds that the state has “had a de facto ban on the procedure for more than five years.”

The Wall Street Journal  (12/17, Orden, Cook, Subscription Publication) reports that the decision puts around 12 million acres of the Marcellus Shale, rich with natural-gas reserves, off limits. The move makes the state the first with significant potential to ban fracking.

The Washington Post  (12/17, Bump) reports in its “The Fix” blog that despite the official reports, it is “far more likely that the real reason the ban will go into effect is that the politics changed dramatically” for Cuomo. First, “the state’s employment picture changed” and second, “he doesn’t need to worry about reelection for a long time – if at all.” Cuomo “can now wash his hands of the issue.”

In an editorial, the New York Times  (12/18, Board, Subscription Publication) endorses the Governor’s move. The Times says that the message to the Administration and the extraction industry is “that not only ordinary citizens but health officials and state leaders like Mr. Cuomo have serious doubts about all of these issues — doubts that a strong regulatory regime might help answer.”

ASCE Gives Nevada Infrastructure C-Minus.

The AP  (12/18, Rindels) reports that the American Society of Civil Engineers “gave Nevada’s infrastructure a C-minus grade in its latest report card, saying maintenance funding isn’t keeping pace with the needs of aging school buildings, dams and roads.” The piece notes that when ASCE last rated Nevada in 2007, the state got a C, and adds that the state’s schools were cited for particular criticism this year, receiving a D.

Johns Hopkins Researchers Say New Orleans Ranks 10th In Cities At Risk For Hurricane Outages.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune  (12/18) reports that a new study from researchers at Johns Hopkins University “ranks New Orleans 10th among U.S. coastal cities most at risk of widespread power outages after a hurricane, just behind Miami, Fla.” The top three cities on the list were New York, Philadelphia, and Jacksonville, Florida. The piece lists the criteria by which cities were rated, and reports that lead researcher associate professor Seth Guikema released a statement saying that “the study provides useful data for cities in planning for climate change.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Alaska STEM Program Wins DOE Award.

The Fairbanks (AK) News-Miner  (12/18, Morrow) reports in its “Whiteboard” blog that the “Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program” has been “named the most exceptional program in STEM education and workforce development by the United States Department of Energy’s Minorities in Energy Initiative.” The story concludes by noting that “more than 70 percent of its students who go to college and begin studying in a STEM field graduate with a degree.”

Oregon College Gets ED Grant To Improve STEM Education.

Woodburn (OR) Independent  (12/18) reports that ED has given Pacific University a $580,198 grant “to help improve the quality of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in Woodburn, Salem and other areas.” The article describes some of the aims in increasing academic achievement in STEM subjects, and explains that ED’s Mathematics and Science Partnerships “is a federal formula grant program that funds collaborative partnerships between STEM departments at institutions of higher education and high-needs school districts.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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