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Leading the News

Keystone XL Bill Clears Senate, But Obama Veto Looms.

The Senate easily passed legislation authorizing the Keystone project on Thursday, but looming over the action was the presidential veto threat. The consensus among the media is that the President will veto the bill, and that Congress will not be able to override it.

The AP  (1/30, Cappiello) reports that on Thursday, the Senate passed a “bipartisan” bill to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on a 62-36 vote. Nine Democrats joined 53 Republicans to back the bill. Its the first time that such legislation has cleared the Senate, but “the vote was short of the threshold needed to override a veto, and the legislation still must be reconciled with the version the House passed.”

The New York Times  (1/30, Davenport, Subscription Publication) says that the multi-year battle over the pipeline has “become a proxy for far broader fights over climate change, energy and the economy, and for the conflict between Mr. Obama and congressional Republicans.” The measure, following action to reconcile it with the House’s version, is likely to reach Obama’s desk “as soon as next week,” but it is “unlikely” that either chamber “can muster the two-thirds majority of votes necessary to override” the expected veto.

McClatchy  (1/30, Cockerham, Subscription Publication) reports that the White House this week “reiterated” that the President will veto the measure. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “our position on the Keystone legislation is well-known.” McClatchy says outright that there “are not enough Keystone supporters” to override a veto. The Wall Street Journal  (1/30, Harder, Subscription Publication) reports that the President has cited the ongoing State Department review process, which has been ongoing for more than six years, as a reason for the veto threat.

Politico  (1/30, Schor) and Roll Call  (1/30, Gardner, Chacko, Subscription Publication) similarly said that the vote sets up a veto showdown.

USA Today  (1/29, Singer) reports that the House “passed a similar bill Jan. 9 — the 10th time the House has passed such legislation — but since the Senate bill has been amended, the two chambers will have to agree on one version before the bill goes to the president.”

The Washington Post  (1/30, Kane) reports that despite the “likely stalemate,” Senate Majority Leader McConnell “declared the nearly month-long debate over the legislation a step forward for eventually getting the pipeline approved and also for pushing the new leader’s approach of free-wheeling debate.” McConnell said, “The debate over these American jobs has shown that with bipartisan cooperation, it’s possible to get Washington functioning again.” The Los Angeles Times  (1/30, Mascaro) reports that passage “secured not only a top Republican policy victory but also a political success for new” Majority Leader McConnell, “who made Keystone his first priority.”

Reuters  (1/30) reports that after the expected veto, the President will have to make a decision on the project. Bloomberg News  (1/30, Hunter) reports that Obama “has said he wants to wait until” the review process “is completed before deciding on whether to approve construction of the pipeline.”

Yellowstone River Spill Provides Ammunition To Both Sides. The AP  (1/30, Brown) reports that a breach in a Montana oil pipeline spilled 30,000 galls of crude into Montana’s Yellowstone River earlier this month, an event that is being used as ammunition by both sides in the Keystone debate. On one side, opponents argue that it shows the danger of oil pipelines. On the other, proponents argue that it shows the need to update the nation’s aging array of pipelines.

Higher Education

Study Shows Credit Hours Still Useful For Schools.

Education Week  (1/29, Heitin) reports “the group that invented the Carnegie unit—also known as the credit hour—more than a hundred years ago announced this week that it had re-examined the measurement’s usefulness and found that, while imperfect, it still serves a vital administrative purpose and has not been a major obstacle to innovation in schools.”

Barro: Obama’s 529 Plan Violated Tax Rules.

Josh Barro writes in The New York Times  (1/30, Barro, Subscription Publication) that “the first rule of modern tax policy is raise taxes only on the rich,” and that “the second rule is that your family isn’t rich, even if you make a lot of money.” According to Barro, “President Obama’s State of the Union proposal to end the tax benefits for college savings accounts ran afoul of these rules, which is why he abandoned it, under intense pressure from both political parties, within a week.”

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Research and Development

Poll Finds Large Gap Between Scientists’, Public’s View On Science Issues.

The AP  (1/30, Borenstein) reports on a poll  released by the Pew Research Center that surveyed both scientists and the American public about their opinions on science issues including climate change, evolution, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The scientists, who were represented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “are far less worried about genetically modified food, pesticide use and nuclear power than is the general public.” In eight of 13 science-oriented issue categories, “there was a 20-percentage-point or higher gap separating the opinions of the public and” the scientists. “The most dramatic split,” the AP reports, “88 percent of the scientists surveyed said it is safe to eat genetically modified foods, while only 37 percent of the public say it is safe and 57 percent say it is unsafe.” Additionally, “68 percent of scientists said it is safe to eat foods grown with pesticides, compared with only 28 percent of the general public.”

NBC News  (1/30) adds that the disconnect is, in part, due to each side “hav[ing] a slightly more negative view of the other.” According to Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “There is a disconnect between the way in which the public perceives the state of science and science’s position on a variety of issues, and the way in which the scientific community … looks at the state of science.” He adds, “That’s a cause of concern.”

Washington Post  (1/29, Mooney) Environmental Reporter Chris Mooney writes in the paper’s “Wonkblog” that just “call[ing] the public dumb” and “try to set them straight about the facts” when there’s a gap between the views of scientists and ordinary citizens, then “you’re not being so perceptive yourself.” He concludes “when people disagree with scientists, there’s often a lot more going on than mere scientific illiteracy.”

Also reporting on the polls findings are Reuters  (1/30, Dunham), TIME  (1/30, Rhodan) reports, the NPR  (1/29) “Two Way” blog, Forbes  (1/29) reports, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  (1/30, Roth) adds that according

Engineering and Public Policy

Media Reports Highlight Problems Developing For Renewable Energy Industry.

Several media pieces posted in the latest news cycle suggest problems are developing for diverse renewable energy sectors and energy-saving initiatives.

Offshore Windfarm Leases Draw Little Interest. The New York Times  (1/30, Cardwell, Subscription Publication) reports that back in 2013, the Administration started “auctioning off leases for offshore wind farms up and down the Eastern Seaboard, hoping to spur a nascent industry.” Now, the “industry is languishing,” with projects in a number of areas “dead, moribund or struggling.” Now, an auction for parcels off the Massachusetts coast on Thursday “drew little interest from developers,” with two of the four receiving no bids, and the others attracting much lower prices than other recent auctions.

Meanwhile, in a piece that is focused on wind farms in the West, USA Today  (1/30, Hughes) reports that utilities have installed “thousands” of new wind turbines in 2014 and are “on track to install even more this year,” but they are “causing a new problem: Those churning blades kill hundreds of thousands of birds annually, including federally protected golden eagles.” Now, Federal wildlife officials are “cracking down on wind farms caught killing bats and birds.”

New Mexico Official Halts Renewable Energy Project. The AP  (1/30, Bryan) reports that late on Wednesday, New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn “has put the brakes on a $2 billion transmission project that would carry electricity generated by renewable resources in New Mexico and Arizona to markets across the West.” Dunn announced a 60-days suspension following a meeting with developers, a move that will give his office “time to review the project before any further development affects state trust lands, he said.”

Smart Meters Not Meeting Earlier Promise. In the second item in a three-part series, the Washington Post  (1/29, Mooney) reports that five years ago, it was argued that a “great new way of saving money on your energy bills” was the “smart meter,” which would “would let consumers actually see how much power they’re using in their homes, thus empowering them to change their habits and slash their bills.” The Post quotes the President praising the devices, but adds that the meters so far haven’t been “very revolutionary” despite the installation of 50 million units. So far, consumers can’t “easily” access the data or use it “to change their energy use.”

If EPA Treats Biomass Energy As Carbon-Free, It Could Lead To Deforestation. In a piece entitled “Obama’s Climate Plan Could Threaten US Forests,” Politico  (1/30, Grunwald) reported that the President’s Clean Power Plan is designed to “fight climate change,” but “behind the scenes, a dispute is raging over obscure language that could promote the rapid destruction of America’s carbon-storing forests.” A policy memo issued by the EPA back in November “suggests that the administration intends to treat electricity produced from most forest and farm products as carbon-free,” though in an interview with the news outlet this week, an EPA official “tried to walk back the memo.”

Pennsylvania Nuclear Waste Dump Clean-Up Price Rises. The Wall Street Journal  (1/30, Emshwiller, Subscription Publication) reports that the clean-up of the nuclear waste at the Shallow Land Disposal Area in Parks Township, Pennsylvania is likely to be more complicated and far more expensive, according to a report from the Army Corps of Engineers. The revised plan suggests that the clean-up could cost 10 times as much as originally planned.

Podesta May Have Violated Ethics Pledge For ANWR Work.

The Daily Caller  (1/30, Pollock) reports that in 2013, John Podesta, now a member of the President’s “inner circle,” was “paid $87,000 by a shadowy foreign billionaire whose passion is preventing energy exploration on American land.” He is now the “driving force inside the White House to block 12 million acres of land in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling.” The Caller says that the “circumstances suggest Podesta may have run afoul of Obama’s highly-touted ethics pledge, which requires political appointees to disqualify themselves in matters relating to the interests of a former employer or client.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Founder Of Engineering Of Kids Discusses How She Got Started.

Kiplinger  (1/30) publishes a Q&A with Dori Roberts, founder and CEO of Engineering for Kids. Roberts was asked, “Why engineering?” Roberts said, “I taught engineering courses to high schoolers for 11 years. I also advised my school’s Technology Student Association, an after-school program in which students worked on projects for competition.” She also said, “My mission is to introduce engineering to as many kids as possible as early as possible.”

More Students Apply For Bell Middle School’s iSTEM Program.

The Denver Post  (1/30, Klemaier) reports on the increased interest in the STEM program at Golden, Colorado’s Bell Middle School.

The Flying Classroom Visits Colbert Elementary School.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel  (1/29, Shell) reported that Barrington Irving, “the youngest person to fly around the world solo,” traveled to Colbert Elementary Museum Magnet School to discuss the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers to students. The visit was part of Irving’s The Flying Classroom program, which includes “16 virtual expeditions.” The article noted that the school was able to bring The Flying Classroom to students through a Federal grant it received last year.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

Boeing Beats Analysts’ Expectations.
ASEE-Managed I-Corps For Learning Program Profiled.
Navy To Use Robots To Train Marines.
Drone Maker To Offer Update Disabling Devices In District Of Columbia.
Drop In Oil Prices Threatens President’s Green Legacy.
ED Program Provides States With Major STEM Funding.

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