Leading the News
Senate Fails To Override Keystone Veto.
Reuters (3/5, Cornwell) reports Senate Republicans failed in their efforts to override President Obama’s veto of a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline in a bid that the Wall Street Journal (3/5, Harder, Subscription Publication) notes was expected to fall short of the necessary votes.
Media coverage portrayed the vote as the latest in what will become routine conflicts between Obama and Congress on the Keystone pipeline and other issues. The AP (3/5, Cappiello) calls the 62-37 vote “one of many” anticipated “veto showdowns” between Republicans and Obama in his final term, while the Huffington Post (3/4, Sheppard) reported that “Senate Keystone supporters vowed that this would not be the last time the subject is debated on the floor.”
The New York Times (3/5, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports the bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Hoeven said Republicans “will continue working on this important infrastructure project” and indicated a possible “option is to attach this legislation” to another bill “that the president won’t want to veto.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Obama’s veto “represents a victory for partisanship and for powerful special interests.”
Media reporting widely viewed the vote as evidence of another defeat for Congressional Republicans and a sign that the GOP may not have as much power as some previously thought after it won control of the legislature. The Los Angeles Times (3/5, Mascaro) reports the vote was the “latest set-back for the GOP-led Congress, which made passage of the Keystone a top priority” and a “victory for the White House.” According to the Washington Times (3/5, Dinan) the “vote was seen as a key early test of Democrats’ willingness to defend their lame-duck party leader,” and Obama “passed that test easily.” However, The Hill (3/4, Barron-Lopez) highlighted that eight Democrats, who all supported the Keystone bill, “voted with Republicans to override Obama.”
Louisiana Governor’s Office Tweaks College Student Fee.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune (3/5) reports that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) office announced this week that families “won’t have to cover a new higher education fee it’s proposing to drive more money into higher education – a slight departure from what the Jindal officials presented to a legislative committee last Friday.” Jindal also changed the name of the fee from an “excellence fee” to the “State Adjustment for Valuable Education.” The fee is part of the Jindal administration’s efforts to cope with a $1.6 billion state deficit and heavy higher education cuts.
Columnist Pans Plan For New UC STEM Campus.
In a column in the Los Angeles Times (3/5), Karin Klein criticizes a plan from California state Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D) “to create an 11th UC campus devoted to science and technology,” noting that it comes as University of California President Janet Napolitano “is announcing a freeze on the enrollment of in-state students.” Klein explains that Gatto is calling for establishing “another UC campus, a public version of Caltech for students to train in all those well-paid STEM jobs that companies offer in abundance but just can’t find the graduates to fill.” Klein writes that the plan would burden the cash-strapped UC system, and argues that more STEM training isn’t an economic panacea.
Research and Development
Scientists Thinking, Planning How To Fund Research In The Midst Of Budget Cuts.
Science Magazine (3/5) reports a pair of physicists discussed a new idea for funding at the annual March Meeting of the American Physical Society (APS). The pair suggested that Congress “create a $100 billion national endowment to help fund basic research. The endowment, which they’re calling the National Research Bank, isn’t an official proposal of APS. Rather, says Michael Lubell, a physicist at the City College of New York who is pushing the idea, ‘we’re trying to start a conversation.’” The article notes that others are thinking about how to sustain the NIH’s budget as well, such as a coalition of biomedical research advocacy groups and a Washington, D.C.–based think tank who “released a report outlining a number of strategies for sustaining the more than $30 billion budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which provides about one-half of all U.S. funding for basic research.”
RTI International, Duke University Partner On New Research Collaboration.
The Triangle (NC) Business Journal (3/5, Ohnesorge, Subscription Publication) reports in its “Techflash” blog that nonprofit RTI International and Duke University have teamed up “to provide seed funding to projects that join researchers from both institutions. Dubbed the Funds Launching Alliances for Research Exploration, the initiative has already awarded $100,000 each to two projects, including one to explore fracking impact and another to explore ways to improve nursing home care.” The goal of the nursing home project is to “create an operational framework for person-directed assessment and care planning, and researchers plan to submit a proposal to the National Institute of Nursing Research.”
Orion Test Flight Made Possible By Automated Code Generation.
Desktop Engineering (3/4, Wong) reports that Jon Friedman, aerospace manager at MathWorks, congratulated the team behind Orion’s December test flight. MathWorks MATLAB and SimuLink was used to automatically generate “roughly 40,000 lines of code” for the test flight, making Orion “an exercise in software development acceleration.” The article notes that the NASA Orion leadership team is now in California, with plans to visit the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Lockheed Martin.
New Engineering University Set For Launch In UK.
E&T Magazine (3/5) reports that the New Model in Technology and Engineering, the first new engineering school in the UK in 40 years, is being launched this week in Hereford, and is scheduled to begin classes in the fall of 2017. The school “will be a specialist engineering university and it aims to tackle the growing shortage of graduates and skills that employers seek.”
Lower Gas Prices Lead To Decline In EV Sales.
KTVU-TV San Francisco (3/5) reports on its website that lower gas prices have precipitated a drop-off in electric vehicle sales. According to the report, compared to February 2014, Nissan’s Leaf sales decreased 16 percent, sales of GM’s Volt were down 45 percent, and Toyota’s Prius sales dropped 6 percent. Despite the sales declines, the report highlights Pacific Gas and Electric’s effort at its San Ramon research center Wednesday to “promote electric cars among a vast group of utility employees.” PG&E spokesman Jason King said, “With the volatility of gas prices, I think that anyone would be foolhardy to count on them remaining low.”
Engineering and Public Policy
USGS: Not Enough Data To Establish Fracking-Pollution Link.
The AP (3/4, Gruver) reports that a new study published in the American Geophysical Union journal Water Resources Research by the US Geological Survey says more data is needed to establish a link between fracking and water pollution. Researchers say long-term water quality trends can only be effectively evaluated in 16 percent of US watersheds with unconventional oil and gas resources due to inadequate data. Environmentalists meanwhile continue to blame fracking for polluting water.
Administration Blamed As Electricity Costs Hit Record In 2014.
In an op-ed for the Washington Times (3/5), former Rep. Ernest Istook (R) says that US households are “suffering” from “skyrocketing electricity costs.” Average US electric rates were a record 13.7 cents per kilowatt hour, up from 12.3 cents in 2008. Istook says that “supply and demand explains it: Under Mr. Obama’s plan, the country will lose 9 percent of our ability to generate electricity by the year 2030,” but is expected to add another 54 million residents by then.
WSJournal: Allow FCC To Serve As Truly Independent Body.
The Wall Street Journal (3/5, Journal, Subscription Publication) editorializes that White House pressure on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is contrary to the agency’s purpose of serving as an independent body that determines communication industry standards.
Samuelson: Net Neutrality Regulations Threaten “Internet’s Vitality.” In his Washington Post (3/5) column, Robert Samuelson says while the Internet “poses many genuine problems…net neutrality is not among them.” Rather, net neutrality “is an opportunity to impose more regulation that…threatens to exact a slow and growing economic toll on the Internet’s vitality.”
STEM-Fueled Competitions Increasing In Popularity.
The EDTECH Magazine (3/4) reports “there’s a robotics movement under way at schools across the country, and it’s aimed squarely at developing a passion for STEM education in the kids who need it the most.” Robot building has “become an officially recognized high school sport in two states, and more states are set to follow.” The movement is being led by the organization For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), which “was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, the man behind the Segway.” While “STEM is experiencing renewed interest nationwide…the rise of FIRST robotics competitions at schools have given way to official recognition in some states.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Former California Rep. Supports Expansion Of Federal Support For Renewable Energy.