Leading the News
Senate Votes To Go To Conference On Energy Modernization Bill.
Reuters (7/12, Gardner, Volcovici) reports the Senate on Tuesday voted to go to formal conference with the House on legislation “to take modest steps on modernizing the power grid, speeding the permitting of exports of liquefied natural gas, and increasing research and funding for energy efficiency and batteries.” The conference is expected to work on the compromise energy legislation after returning from recess in September. “Lawmakers in the House have removed items such as limits on energy efficiency that the White House has said Obama would veto.” The Hill (7/12, Cama) quotes Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, saying on the Senate floor before the vote, “I will reiterate my personal commitment to a final bill that can pass both chambers and be signed into law by the president.”
The Washington Examiner (7/12, Giaritelli) also reports.
Alexander: Energy Bill Supports ORNL Research. Oak Ridger (TN) (7/12) reports Sen. Lamar Alexander released a statement after voting to go to conference on the energy bill saying the Senate bill includes funding for research done at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Alexander said. “It is my hope that the final bill will authorize these programs, and also authorize the Department of Energy to continue working to build the world’s fastest supercomputers, which is essential to national security, clean energy research and competitiveness.”
DOJ To Investigate Whether Bridgepoint Education Violated Federal Aid Rules.
The Washington Post (7/12, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that the Justice Department has opened an investigation into whether Bridgepoint Education, which owns Ashford University and the University of the Rockies, is violating a law that prohibits for-profit colleges from receiving more than 90 percent of their operating revenue from federal student aid funding. Bridgepoint indicated it intends to fully cooperate with the DOJ investigation.
The Chronicle of Higher Education (7/12) reports that DOJ is investigating Bridgepoint “over claims that it ‘may have misstated Title IV refund revenue or overstated revenue associated with private secondary loan programs,’” saying the investigation “concerns whether the company violated the federal 90/10 rule, which prohibits colleges from receiving more than 90 percent of their revenue through federal student aid.” The piece notes that the school says last year ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid “opened an investigation into its marketing practices.”
House Passes Higher Education Transparency Language.
The Carolina (NC) Journal (7/12) reports the House has passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) which “would require colleges and universities to provide applicants information about the costs and returns of higher education.” Foxx says the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act “is designed to help college students understand their prospects at any college in the United States before they dip into their savings accounts or take out loans to pay for higher education.” The measure “would require the U.S. Secretary of Education to provide a ‘College Dashboard’ website with information about college completion rates and current price calculators to give applicants accurate assessments of education costs.” The High Country (NC) Press (7/12) also covers this story.
University Of California Says It Increased In-State Admissions.
The New York Times (7/12, Saul, Subscription Publication) reports that University of California officials say they have “increased admission offers to California freshmen by more than 15 percent” while “reducing offers to international students at two of its prestigious campuses,” potentially quelling “controversy sparked by accusations that the university has rejected Californians in favor of nonresidents.” The article says the practice of giving preferential admissions to foreign and out-of-state students who pay higher tuition is “part of an increasingly controversial national trend in which public universities rely on nonresident tuition to help fill budget gaps left by declining state appropriations.”
Arkansas Governor Touts State’s Workforce Training.
In commentary for CNBC (7/12), Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson hails computer science and coding education in his state, and says Arkansas “has worked to implement a workforce initiative that includes private-public partnerships with industries, two-year colleges, technical colleges and high schools.” Hutchinson states that “not everyone needs to invest in and attend a four-year college to achieve their version of the American Dream,” praising his state’s “variety of skilled career paths for young people entering the workforce.”
NACAC Calls For Improved Standardized Testing Integrity.
Inside Higher Ed (7/12) reports that the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s board on Monday “announced its endorsement of a statement on promoting integrity in standardized testing, proposed by NACAC’s advisory committee of people concerned with international issues.” The statement released by the board calls attention to the need to “curb cheating on exams in the U.S. and abroad when the technological means to cheat have never been more available.” NACAC “urges a number of steps to promote testing integrity.”
Research and Development
UM Professor Working On Carbon Dioxide Device.
The AP (7/12) reports a professor at the University of Missouri, William Jacoby, is working with “two students to create a device to remove carbon dioxide from the emissions of fossil fuel power plants.” He “says the process involves channeling power plant emissions through a chamber that uses high pressure to separate carbon dioxide from other gasses.” The initial tests have yielded positive results, according to Jacoby. Jacoby “hopes that the technology can work at coal power plants or any facility that uses fossil fuel.”
Rochester Institute Of Technology Gets Funding To Study Gravitational Waves.
The Rochester (NY) Democrat & Chronicle (7/12) reports that Rochester Institute of Technology has received a $435,000 National Science Foundation grant to “continue its research into gravitational waves.” The article describes the recent discovery of proof that gravitational waves exist, and says “three RIT professors created a mathematical model to predict the nature of gravitational waves.”
ONR Targeting Software Bloat.
Seapower Magazine (7/12) reports the Office of Naval Research (ONR) announced on July 12 it would be targeting “software bloat,” or problems stemming from updates that leave repetitive code in place. ONR C4ISR Program Officer Dr. Sukarno Mertoguno said software bloat “isn’t only a nuisance or inconvenience,” but also “a serious security risk, since the additional code could offer hackers more entry points into a software program.” The effort is, according to Seapower Magazine, “especially important” as ONR seeks to create the Naval Tactical Cloud, which looks to “harness the power of cloud computing and bring big data capabilities to the warfighting environment.”
Survey: Tech Companies Planning Hiring Push.
Silicon Beat (CA) (7/12) reports that according to a survey of tech company CEOs, such firms “are planning a burst of hiring over the next three years,” with a projected workforce increase of “at least 6 percent.” Tech firms “also intend to bolster automation and machine learning in an array of functions.”
CNPC: Chinese Energy Consumption To Peak By 2035.
Reuters (7/12) reports that China’s CNPC said in a long-term energy outlook that China’s total energy consumption will peak at 3.75 billion tons of oil equivalent by about 2035, compared to an estimated 3.04 billion tons this year. That would mark a 23.3 percent increase in energy consumption over the next two decades. China “set its first cap on energy consumption during this year’s annual parliament meetings as demand slowed and the country sought to increase its energy efficiency.” The vice director of CNPC’s economic and technology research institute, Du Wei, said that “natural gas will be the only fossil fuel resource that keeps growing by 2030.”
Jaguar Land Rover To Test Semi-Autonomous Features.
Engadget (7/12) reports that Jaguar Land Rover is planning to test semi-autonomous features during road tests in the UK. The features include Roadwork Assist for driving through construction zones, Safe Pullaway for preventing collisions at stops, and Horizon Warning for communicating with other cars about breakdowns or other emergencies. Tony Harper, head of research at Jaguar Land Rover, is quoted by Reuters (7/12, Pitas) as saying the “connected and automated technology could help improve traffic flow, cut congestion and reduce the potential for accidents.” The Financial Times (7/13, Campbell, Subscription Publication) also reports.
Navigant: EV Sales To Grow By 62% In 2016.
TechCrunch (7/12, Hall-Geisler) reports on data from Navigant Research indicating predicting that the electric vehicle market will grow by 62 percent this year. “Navigant points to long-range battery electric vehicles (BEVs) with price tags under $40,000, like the Chevy Bolt ($37,000 MSRP) that’s expected to hit dealerships in the fall, as being key to this growth. A press release also mentions the Tesla Model X, the latest Chevy Volt, the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and the forthcoming Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV as driving the trend, pun definitely intended.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Bongino: Congress Must Demand Swifter Action On Everglades Restoration.
Dan Bongino, a Republican candidate for the US Congressional seat in Florida’s 19th District, says, in an op-ed for the Fort Myers (FL) News-Press (7/12, Bongino) that despite the growing pollution in Lake Okeechobee, “the real cesspool … is Congress.” He expresses frustration at the fact that Everglades restoration “will take more than 50 years to complete” when it only “took three years to build a nuclear bomb that ended World War II.” He argues that Congress “must demand speed and results from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Interior.” He asks voters to elect him to Congress, to oppose “D.C. insiders and establishment types” who offer “constant talk” but “never results.”
House Passes Bills Creating Two DOE Basic Research Programs.
E&E Daily (7/12, Marshall, Subscription Publication) reports that the House passed legislation that “would create new basic research programs at the Department of Energy for electricity storage and solar fuels.” The Solar Fuels Innovation Act would authorize $150 million for a new basic research initiative at DOE to advance solar fuels, largely at DOE’s Office of Science. The Electricity Storage Innovation Act would authorize $150 million for a new basic research initiative focused on various types of energy storage technologies. Both measures tap expertise from the national labs, industry and universities to “pursue aggressive, milestone-driven basic research goals” for the technology.
Holdren: Halting Fossil Fuel Extraction Is “Unrealistic.”
The Washington Post (7/12, Mooney, Eilperin) reports that White House science adviser John Holdren’s comment that completely stopping fossil fuel extraction is “unrealistic,” has “further highlighted the tensions that exist even among top American policy makers and environmental advocates concerned about curbing the rate of climate change.” While the green movement has urged a “‘keep it in the ground’ approach,” Administration officials “and many energy policy wonks continue to suggest that we will need to rely on burning natural gas, nuclear energy and even outfitting coal plants with carbon capturing technologies for some time.” While Holdren’s comment has “reawakened” those differences, the Post notes that his remarks “could be viewed as simply stating what’s already known.”
Senators Pushing Legislation To Protect US Electrical Grid.
The Washington Examiner (7/12, Giaritelli) reports a bipartisan group of senators met Tuesday “in the hopes of advancing legislation that would let authorities test technologies aimed at keeping the US electrical grid safe from cyberattacks.” Sen. James Risch is leading a group sponsoring a bill he says is aimed at moving toward a more secure electrical grid. Risch explained that “because of the development of the World Wide Web and those new ways of handling operations of controls, [the grid] also now has vulnerabilities, and these vulnerabilities are now targets by folks who wish to do us harm.”
Study: Expanding California’s Electric Grid Would Save Consumers $1.5 Billion.
The Los Angeles Times (7/12, Penn, Mcdonald) reports the California Independent System Operator released studies Tuesday that “show its proposed expansion would yield annual consumer savings of as much as $1.5 billion by 2030 and help with the state’s goal of 50% renewable energy by then.” Cal-ISO CEO Steve Berberich said, “We believe the findings in these studies will help drive the formation of a new, more efficient, cost-effective and greener Western electric grid.” Some critics of the grid expansion question the addition of coal-heavy utility PacifiCorp and its focus on centralized power generation. Utility critic Michael Aguirre, a former assistant U.S. attorney and a San Diego lawyer, said Cal-ISO’s conclusions were the result of “a made-to-order report, not a study,” as the experts consulted also work for utilities. The San Francisco Chronicle (7/12) also reports on the grid study.
Regional Grid Has Unclear Implications For Utah. The Salt Lake (UT) Tribune (7/12) reports that how transmission costs are worked out could have implications for Utah ratepayers. Utah lawmakers have been skeptical of California’s proposal, “with Gov. Gary Herbert and others citing fears that Utah’s ability to make regulatory decisions regarding energy development and pricing would be curtailed” if it became part of a regional grid.
Palo Alto School Board To Hold Special Meeting On New Math Curriculum.
The San Jose (CA) Mercury News (7/12, Lee) reports that the Palo Alto school board will hold a special meeting in August or September to choose “a new elementary school math curriculum amid concerns that the process so far has lacked parent and community input.”
New York City Launches Summer STEM Classes For Underserved Students.
The New York Daily News (7/12, Chapman) reports that New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will “outline the public schools’ new STEM Summer in the City classes in a Wednesday speech at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering.” The program, which has about 4,000 students enrolled, “offers free, five-week STEM classes in a variety of high-tech topics to students from underserved areas.”
University Of Illinois Female Engineers Hold Stem Workshop For Young Girls.
Citing the Freeport Journal-Standard, the AP (7/12) reports that about 30 young girls on June 20 participated in a STEM workshop in Pearl City, Illinois hosted by female engineering students at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. The workshop, called MakerGirl, looks to close the gender gap in STEM fields and will be offered at elementary schools in 19 states this summer.
Maine School Wins $10,000 Grant For Robotics Course.
THE Journal (7/12, Ravipati) reports that the Acton Elementary School in Acton, Maine has won a $10,000 grant from software company Kepware Technologies to “advance a hands-on robotics course for students.”
Also in the News
Professor Studies Science Of Baseball.
The Washington Post (7/11, Kaplan) reports on Monday’s Major League Baseball Home Run Derby, saying that while “to most fans, it’s just a fun spectacle,” to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor emeritus Alan Nathan, “home-run hitting is a physics problem.” Nathan “has written several peer-reviewed papers on” the “underlying physics of” baseball. The article discusses the mathematical, Newtonian, aerodynamic, and atmospheric factors that impact whether a hit will leave the park.
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• Nadella, Immelt Discuss Augmented Reality Technology.
• Nonprofit Colleges Also Concerned About ED Loan Forgiveness Rule Proposal.
• Carnegie Mellon Researchers Studying Robot Fish Propulsion.
• NYIT President Touts Green Building Revolution.
• Study: Flammable Tapwater Often From Natural Processes, Not Gas Leaks.
• NSA, National Academy Of Sciences Sponsoring “GenCyber Camps” For Girls.