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

Leading the News

Environmental Groups Turn To Court To Challenge Arctic Ocean Drilling.

The Hill  (6/2, Cama) reports that twelve environmental groups are readying to file a new challenge to a 2008 government auction of Arctic drilling leases to Shell and other companies. “The environmentalists cite the risks of spills in the harsh Arctic weather and the harm to the climate caused by the oil and gas in challenging the lease,” the article reports. “Drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean will only hasten climate change at what is already ground zero for global warming,” said Erik Grafe, a staff attorney for Earthjustice. He added, “Interior ignored recent science that identifies Arctic oil as incompatible with meeting basic international commitments to curb the worst effects of climate change.” Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “Drilling in the Arctic has never made sense from a risk perspective, and Shell proved that in 2012 when its drillship ran aground.”

The Environment & Energy Publishing  (6/2) reports that “a coalition of environmental groups today asked a federal appeals court to overturn the Interior Department’s decision last month to conditionally approve Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s oil exploration plan for Alaska’s Chukchi Sea.” According to the article, “the petition for review before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seeks to block Shell’s plan to drill up to six wells in the Chukchi beginning in July.”

The Offshore Engineer  (6/3, Sustaita) reports that several groups are challenging the decision by the Department of Interior to “reaffirm the 2008 Chukchi Sea lease sale,” which will “allow oil and gas drilling” in a section of the Chukchi Sea outer continental shelf (OCS). The report says that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) recently granted Shell a “conditional approval…for its US$1 billion, multi-year exploration plan for the Chukchi Sea.”

The FuelFix  (6/2, Dlouhy) reports that the lawsuit “argues that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave a rushed, cursory review to Shell’s Chukchi Sea exploratory plan, in the process overlooking the risks from potential spills and increased drilling in the region.” Faith Gemmill, executive director of the group Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands, said, “Moving forward with drilling in the Chukchi Sea without any concrete measures to address a large oil spill in broken ice conditions is a perilous venture.” Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said, “We expect all aspects of our plans, including our leases and permits, to be challenged in court by many of the same organizations that have historically used legal maneuvers to delay Arctic exploration.” He added that in the 8 years Shell pursued an exploration drilling program offshore Alaska, “ours have arguably become the most scrutinized exploration plans in the history of North America.”

The AP  (6/2, Joling) reports that Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said, “We believe this most recent exploration plan is robust and will withstand further legal scrutiny.” Bureau of Ocean Energy Management spokesman John Callahan said the agency “cannot comment on pending litigation.”

Higher Education

Illinois AG Calls On Duncan To Protect Student Loan Consumers From Scammers.

The Washington Post  (6/1, Douglas) reports that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wrote an open letter to the ED Monday that says the Department can “play an important role” in helping borrowers find “somewhere to turn to” for information. She adds that loan service providers are “failing to adequately counsel borrowers about available options” and that the “vacuum” has led “scammers to fill the gap.” The ED has not commented on the letter. While the Post notes that debt management is “not illegal” and that “reputable companies” are able to provide services, “many companies skirt the law.”

The Chicago Defender  (6/2) reports that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has written to Education Secretary Arne Duncan calling on ED to “provide certified nonprofit credit counselors for the millions of student loan borrowers seeking help to repay their federal student loans,” saying that borrowers need better protections from “an industry of scam operations” that is “increasingly targeting and exploiting borrowers for profit.” WLS-TV  Chicago (6/3) also covers this story.

Virginia Members Of Congress Press Duncan For Corinthian Student Relief.

The Augusta (VA) Free Press  (6/3) reports that Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) on Monday reached out to Education Secretary Arne Duncan “on behalf of former students of Corinthian Colleges Inc.” calling for supports to help students who complain of unusable credentials and crippling debt.

Texas Bill Would Allow College Students To Carry Guns On Campus.

The New York Times  (6/3, Fernandez, Montgomery, Subscription Publication) reports Texas college students “could be allowed to carry concealed handguns into classrooms, dormitories and other” campus facilities “under a bill passed” this weekend by the state legislature. According to the Times, the “campus-carry bill” is “being hailed as a victory by gun rights advocates and criticized by many students and professors as irresponsible and unnecessary.”

Robots Could Soon Teach College Classes.

Dominic Basulto writes in the Washington Post ’s (6/2) Innovations blog that while society has tended to believe creativity-based jobs will be “safest from the robot overlords,” the “erudite university professor with the rumpled corduroy jacket” may also be “soon be headed for extinction” as robotic professors may be able to better “personalize” student assignments. University of Oxford associate professor of machine learning Michael Osborne said that it appears “pointless” to have a lecturer explaining things “that might be better absorbed through online videos,” which would allow teachers to work in a more “interactive fashion.” While the idea could lead more top professors to provide “world-class education” over a MOOC, the concept could also lead to the “mass producing graduates instead of widgets.”

From ASEE
ASEE Member Comments on Strategic Doing
President Nick Altiero encourages all member to read and respond to the Board’s “Strategic Doing” beta document. (Member login required.)  Open through June 1.

Microinequities: The Power of Small
ASEE members get a steep discount on this engaging webinar when using code ASEE2015.

ASEE’s Annual Conference in Seattle
…is right around the corner!

Research and Development

USAF Working With DARPA On Hypersonic Weaponry.

Engadget  (6/2, Dent) reports the US Air Force and the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency are working together on the next generation of hypersonic weaponry. In 2013, the WaveRider supersonic ramjet “set a record by flying at Mach 5.1” for more than three minutes after being dropped by a B-2H bomber and accelerated by a rocket, but China “is reportedly also testing hypersonic cruise missiles that could eventually blow through US defense shields at Mach 10,” leading to increased US interest in the technology.

Device Uses Electric Fields To Fight Brain Cancer Cells.

Reuters  (6/3, Gruber) reports on a device called Optune, which uses electric fields to fight brain cancer cells. Research on the device was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting.

Workforce

US Firms Look To Game H-1B Visa Lottery.

The Wall Street Journal  (6/3, Jordan, Subscription Publication) reports that immigration lawyers assisting with H-1B visa applications say that companies desperate to import foreign talent file multiple applications for the same person, whereas some workers accept jobs with multiple companies who file applications for them. While it isn’t known how many of the filings are duplicates, experts say they could number in the thousands. A USCIS spokesperson is quoted saying, “there is no prohibition for multiple unrelated petitioners filing on behalf of the same individual beneficiary within the same fiscal year.”

New H-1B Rules Would Make Process More Expensive. The Wall Street Journal  (6/3) reports that the Federal government has released draft rules that would make the H-1B visa application process more expensive, noting that if a worker changes job locations, employers could be on the hook for a $325 amended application fee.

Global Developments

European Oil Companies Promote Replacement Of Coal.

The Wall Street Journal  (6/3, Kent, Landauro, Subscription Publication) reports that European oil companies have promoted natural gas as a vehicle for reducing reliance on coal and lowering carbon emissions. Speaking at the World Gas Conference in Paris, Total Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanné said that “it is important to promote the use of gas to replace coal” in order to meet emissions targets. The heads of both Exxon Mobil and Chevron also stressed the role of natural gas, but focused more on the need for continued investment to meet growing global demand. Reuters  (6/2, Volcovici, Wallace) reports that Pouyanné’s comments come as he and other CEOs of European energy giants are pushing the creation of a global carbon market to cut emissions. Such a market, Reuters says, could seriously reduce coal’s market share. The coal industry’s strategy to prevent this has been to work with developing countries who see coal as a cheap fuel for industrialization.

Column: Americans Should Heed European Executives On Coal. Writing in his column in the Houston (TX) Chronicle  (6/2, Tomlinson), Chris Tomlinson argues that American leadership on climate change has not materialized because energy interests in the US have taken it from a discussion of science and survival to one of faith and politics. He berates Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as a “stereotype” conducting a “Darth Vader imitation.” Tomlinson ends by praising moves by European energy executives to address the issue, and urges Americans to follow suit.

Regulation Needed On Coal Supplies, Says Economist. Bloomberg News  (6/2, Downing) reports that former World Bank chief economist and current chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment Nicholas Stern said that “There should be very strong regulation of coal around the world to stop new coal” in order to combat global warming. He has joined with former energy executives to pressure governments to promote clean energy and make it cheaper than coal by funding research.

Industry News

Former Tesla Engineer Developing Electric Engines For Heavy Trucks.

Chris Perkins writes for Mashable  (6/2) that Ian Wright, “one of the engineers who launched Tesla, wants to electrify the garbage trucks and delivery vehicles around your neighborhood.” Wright’s company, Wrightspeed, “is marketing an electric powertrain system for commercial trucks.” Wrightspeed-powered trucks “run on batteries for 30 miles before a generator powered by gas, diesel or a variety of other liquid fuels charges the battery.” The AP  (6/2, Chea) reports that Wrightspeed “is one of a growing number of companies that are trying to transform the market for commercial trucks that consume billions of gallons of fuel while spewing tons of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other pollutants.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Brown Refusing To Impose Hydraulic Fracking Ban.

The Washington Times  (6/3, Richardson) reports California Gov. Jerry Brown, despite being a “longtime favorite” of environmentalists, “has refused” to impose a “ban on hydraulic fracking.” According to the Times, the “irony” of the situation “is that there may be no greener governor” than Brown. The Times says “Brown represents an increasingly rare political breed” of a “Democratic governor in a blue or blue-leaning state that’s also home to rich deposits of fossil fuels.”

Clean Power Plan Enters Final Review.

The Hill  (6/3, Cama) reports that the Obama administration’s proposed Clean Power Plan has been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget by the EPA for final review. The article notes that “Sending the rule to the OMB also allows stakeholders to request meetings with the White House and EPA officials. Under an executive order, officials are obligated to meet with most groups that ask.” The submission is on schedule to allow for an August release as planned by the White House.

Coal Industry Predicts Economic Damage From Clean Power Plan.

The Washington (DC) Examiner  (6/3, Siciliano) reports that the coal industry is warning that the Administration’s Clean Power Plan will cause damage to the American economy as it heads into final review before its release in August. Laura Sheehan, senior vice president for communications at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said that the move brings the plan “one step closer to inflicting significant economic harm on American families” and that the industry will continue to fight the rule “on behalf of the millions of people who simply cannot afford to have their already limited budgets raided by the president to fund his climate crusade.” The article notes that several states have asked the courts to consider the plan, but judges appear reluctant to rule on it before it is actually finalized.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Math Skills Difficult To Transfer To STEM Concepts.

Education Week  (6/2, Sparks) reports that even though mathematics drives science, it can be a “struggle to transfer” math skills to practical STEM concepts, a challenge presenters at the Association of Psychological Science conference sought to address. Tufts University psychology professor Holly Taylor said that if students “pull a general concept out of a combination of specific examples,” it will help with transfer, and that currently, STEM concepts are “siloed,” though she adds that “there is change afoot in this regard.” Other presentations on programs, such as the creation of origami and paper structures, and the importance of language in expression of mathematical concepts were highlighted.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Interior Announces Approval Of New Solar Projects Through Streamlined Reviews.
ED Tightens Monitoring Of ITT.
Researchers Test LED Wavelength Combinations In ISS Crew Quarter Replicas.
Journal Pulls Column Telling Science Student To Accept Adviser’s Harassment.
Apollo Plan Aims To Make Clean Energy Cheaper.
Northrop Grumman Lands US Air Force Spares And Repairs Contract For $401 Million.
Lack Of FDA Guidance On Biosimilar Labeling Leaves Questions For Industry.

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