Leading the News
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Protests, Files Lawsuit To Block Oil Pipeline.
The New York Times (8/23, Healy, Subscription Publication) reports that tensions are rising near Cannon Ball, North Dakota as members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have increased their efforts to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline, which is currently under construction. Protesters have been gathering near the construction site since April, but hundreds more have arrived in the past two weeks as the pipeline project has received more media attention. Local tribal leaders have also filed a lawsuit accusing the Army Corps of Engineers of failing to conduct proper cultural and historical reviews before granting federal approvals for the pipeline. The corps rejects those claims, saying it consulted extensively with tribes, including the Standing Rock Sioux, and adds that the tribe has failed to describe specific cultural sites that would be damaged by the pipeline.
Energy Transfer’s Dakota Access Pipeline To Remain On Hold. Judge pushes back hearing, urges talks between tribe, developer. The Wall Street Journal (8/23, Maher, Subscription Publication) reports construction on the $3.7 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline will remain postponed, after US District Court Judge Daniel Hovland delayed a hearing on a preliminary injunction to September 8. The judge did agreed to extend a restraining order against the Standing Rock Sioux’s chairman Dave Archambault II and others protestors.
Three Affiliated Tribes Supports Standing Rock Sioux In Dakota Access Pipeline Protest. With information from the Bismarck Tribune, the AP (8/23) reports the Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Mark Fox “has issued a formal letter,” supporting the Standing Rock Sioux in their protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline construction. Fox’s letter expresses support for “an alternative means and method of transporting oil to market.” The Standing Rock tribe “fears a leak could contaminate their drinking water, which comes from the Missouri River.” More than two dozen protesters have been arrested and Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier “estimates law enforcement overtime costs related to the protest are totaling about $100,000 per week.”
California Lawmakers Advance Bill Tightening Emissions Target.
The AP (8/23, Noon) reports that California lawmakers “moved closer to extending the state’s ambitious climate change law Tuesday after winning critical approval from business-minded Democratic lawmakers.” SB32 would set a new goal to reduce emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. It also provides greater legislative oversight of the appointed Air Resources Board, and potentially “strengthen California’s role as a leader for other states and nations to take action in combating climate change.”
The San Francisco Chronicle (8/23) quotes an statement by Gov. Jerry Brown, saying, “California’s charting a clear path on climate beyond 2020 and we’ll continue to work to shore up the cap-and-trade program, reduce super pollutants and direct more investment to disadvantaged communities.”
Steyer Praises Vote To Extend California’s Climate Program. The Los Angeles Times (8/23) reports that billionaire climate-activist Tom Steyer praised the legislature’s decision to extend the plan, saying it was a “huge step forward” in shoring up the state’s cap-and-trade system. Steyer argued that the extension will provide stability for businesses to take on long-term planning.
The Hill (8/23, Henry) reports that billionaire climate activist and donor Tom Steyer celebrated the bill’s passage, but one state Assemblyman quoted by the Sacramento Bee noted Steyer’s potential political ambitions to run for governor, and accused Democrats of “dancing to the flute of a rich, hedge fund billionaire that’s running for governor.”
NLRB Rules Graduate Students Have Right To Unionize.
The New York Times (8/23, Scheiber, Subscription Publication) reports that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled Tuesday that students who work as teaching and research assistants at private universities have a protected right to unionize. The decision reverses a 2004 ruling by the board involving graduate student assistants at Brown University. The ruling held that the assistants could not be considered employees because they “are primarily students and have a primarily educational, not economic, relationship with their university.” The current board disagreed, saying that a statutory right to form a union “is permitted by virtue of an employment relationship” and is not “foreclosed by the existence of some other, additional relationship.”
The AP (8/23) reports the ruling involved “graduate students at Columbia University,” but “potentially affects graduate students at hundreds of private colleges and universities nationwide.” The AP says Columbia released a statement criticizing the ruling, saying “it believes that the relationship between students and academic departments is not the same as the one between employee and employer.” The NLRB ruling refutes arguments from Columbia and other schools who say “collective bargaining could intrude on the educational relationship between graduate students and universities.” The Wall Street Journal (8/23, Trottman, Subscription Publication) reports similarly on the story.
WSJournal: Ruling Violates Precedent, Will Not Help Universities. The Wall Street Journal (8/23, Subscription Publication) editorializes that Tuesday’s NLRB ruling violates precedent, and primarily benefits members of the already-privileged academic elite. Unionization will not help graduate students or universities, the Journal says. Prestigious institutions with large endowments will not have trouble absorbing the costs unionization will impose, but doing so will be more difficult for smaller private colleges, which could stop graduate students from teaching.
Senator Alexander Critical Of Ruling. The Washington Examiner (8/23, Adams) reports that Sen. Lamar Alexander was highly critical of Tuesday’s ruling. Alexander said, “Today, the NLRB has again changed its policy to benefit unions by allowing ‘student assistants’ at private colleges to unionize – completely confusing the entire reason students enroll in the first place; if I’m earning a BS or an MBA from Union University in Jackson or an advanced engineering degree from Vanderbilt, my primary purpose and benefit during my time there is to gain the skills I need to launch myself into the career and the future I want – not to garner wages as an employee of the university.”
ED, Other Government Agencies Cracking Down On For-Profit College Abuses.
In a piece for Diverse Education (8/23), Matthew Lynch offers a précis of various government actions being taken to crack down on abuses in the for-profit college sector, including California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ lawsuit against Corinthian Colleges Inc.’s parent company and ED’s increased monitoring of colleges with questionable finances. The piece touches on the types of misconduct perpetrated by bad actors in the industry and how students should respond.
More Chinese Students Attending US Private Schools To Boost Chances For Top College Admission.
The Washington Post (8/23, Gross) reports in a 1,400-word analysis that an increasing number of students from China are matriculating at private schools in the US in an effort to boost their changes of acceptance to top American universities. University of San Francisco researcher Christine Yeh said, “A lot of Chinese families are realizing that they have to get into the [college admissions] process earlier.” The Post says that as more Chinese families move to send their children to American schools, they are creating “growing pockets” of diversity in several otherwise homogeneous areas of the country. Private schools accept the international students because they want “a financial windfall from full-paying Chinese families and an opportunity to broaden their student body’s horizons.”
Research and Development
Researchers Working To Develop 3D Printed Hands And Fingers.
The Albuquerque (NM) Journal (8/23, Rayburn) reports efforts by University of New Mexico’s Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation researchers who are working with 3-D printer technology in the hopes of “creat[ing][ low-cost artificial hands and fingers for pediatric patients who quickly outgrow their custom-fitted prosthetics.” The researchers have “created about seven prototype hands” that will not be tested “to determine strength, flexibility and grasp force,” according to Christina Salas, assistant professor and director of UNM Orthopaedics Biomechanics & Biomaterials Laboratory.
MIT Researchers Manipulate Bacteria For Highly Conductive, Very Thin Wires.
Mashable (8/23, Triola) reports Microbiologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have discovered how to make “microbial nanowires” by manipulating “bacteria to spin out very fine but highly conductive wires composed of natural amino acids.” Researchers say wires, which “rough[ly] 60,000 times thinner than a human hair,” could be “sustainably produced since they are made from inexpensive materials,” such as acetic acid.
Company Seeks To Make Artificial Intelligence Tool To Help Primary Care Physicians Screen Patients For Schizophrenia.
The Atlantic (8/23, Frankel) reports that engineer Jim Schwoebel, “CEO of NeuroLex Diagnostics, wants to…make a tool for primary-care doctors to screen their patients for schizophrenia,” searching “a transcript of the patient’s speech for linguistic clues.” According to the Atlantic, “in addition to the schizophrenia screener, an idea that earned Schwoebel an award from the American Psychiatric Association, NeuroLex is hoping to develop a tool for psychiatric patients who are already being treated in hospitals.” The artificial intelligence tool “would examine a patient’s speech over time to track their progress.”
Researchers Combine 3D Printing, Folding With Conductive Smart Materials.
Science Daily (8/23) says an article published by the journal Scientific Reports in June explains that lab scientists and engineers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have “revealed a strategy for creating boxes, spirals and spheres from shape memory polymers (SMPs), bio-based ‘smart’ materials, that exhibit shape-changes when resistively heated or when exposed to the appropriate temperature.” Science Daily says LLNL researchers “are the first to combine the process of 3D printing and subsequent folding (via origami methods) with conductive smart materials to build complex structures.”
Researchers: 2021 Will Not Be Flagship Year For Autonomous-Driving Car.
MIT Technology Review (8/23, Simonite) reports automated driving researchers caution that automated driving technology will not be readily available in five years as pledged by Uber, Ford, and BMW. University of California, Berkeley automated driving expert Steven Shladover said the media and public figures have over-interpreted carmakers’ statements about their autonomous driving projects, and, “The hype has gotten totally out of sync with reality.” Princeton professor Alain Kornhauser similarly said that in 2021–car manufacturers’ target year–”we may be able to define [a] ‘fenced’ region of space where we can in fact let cars out there without a driver,” but, “The challenge will be making that fenced-in area large enough so that it provides a valuable service.” University of Southern California associated professor pointed to the early-2016 Tesla fatality as an example of one of the most critical challenges that engineers face in developing software capable of understanding external scenarios.
Michigan Approves $1 Million For UM Battery Lab.
The Michigan Strategic Fund board has “approved a matching grant Tuesday of $1 million for the Battery Fabrication and Characterization User Facility at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.” UM’s Energy Institute in 2013 “was awarded a $5 million grant over five years from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., with matching funds provided by the U.S. Department of Energy and Ford Motor Co., to build and outfit the battery facility, known as the Battery Lab.” The award on Tuesday “provides formal approval for the fifth and final year of the matching-grant program.” The Battery Lab “enables industry and university researchers to collaborate on less expensive and longer lasting energy-storage devices.” The lab is “a member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, which should lead to additional federal funding.”
Engineering and Public Policy
California Carbon Auction Generates Record Low Proceeds.
The Los Angeles Times (8/23) reports that California’s greenhouse gas pollution credits auction generated “only $8 million in proceeds,” marking an all-time low. The AP (8/23, Knickmeyer) reports Tuesday’s auction results were “disappointing” as “litigation and lagging support by lawmakers weigh down” the program. Dave Clegern, spokesman for the state air board that runs the auction, said the cap-and-trade program “is first and foremost a greenhouse gas reduction program, and it is working” to bring down carbon pollution from fossil fuels.
Reuters (8/23) reports that critics “cited the results as an indication that the program is not working.” State Senate Republican Leader Jean Fuller called the results, “Yet another reminder that this government program is inherently troubled and should be abandoned.” The Wall Street Journal (8/23, Lazo, Subscription Publication) notes that the California Chamber of Commerce is suing the state, arguing the carbon permit auctions that are part of the cap-and-trade program amount to an illegal tax on business. The Sacramento (CA) Bee (8/23, Walters) reports that a state appellate court is expected to rule soon on a lawsuit challenging cap and trade as an illegal tax, and “many observers expect it to void the program.”
California Lawmakers Advance Cap-and-trade Program Extension Despite Weak Auction. Reuters (8/23, Carroll) reports that despite a weak permit auction, the California Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program beyond 2020. The Assembly voted 42 to 29 to pass SB 32, which goes back to the Senate for an up-or-down concurrence vote by the end of August. California Governor Jerry Brown on Tuesday said he was ready to sign the legislation into law.
Struggling California, Quebec Cap-and-trade Auctions Threatens Ontario’s Climate Plan. The Canadian Press (8/23) reports that the cap-and-trade program Ontario’s set to join next year “is having big trouble in California and Quebec,” suggesting Ontario’s $8.3-billion Climate Change Action Plan could see less money than anticipated. Two consecutive weak auctions “leaves the two governments hundreds of millions of dollars short on revenue projections, and nobody can say for certain why the auctions are failing.”
Libertarian Candidate Supports Carbon Emissions “Fee.”
The Hill (8/23, Cama) reports Libertarian presidential candidate and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson has expressed support for a “fee” on carbon dioxide emissions, “a policy more closely associated with environmentalists and liberals.” Johnson told an Alaska newspaper “that he believes greenhouse gases cause climate change, and a carbon fee could be ‘a free-market approach to climate change.’” Johnson said, “We as human beings want to see carbon emissions reduced significantly,” and “I don’t want to do anything that harms jobs.” He was cautious “not to call it a ‘carbon tax,’ the more widely used term for a government levy on carbon dioxide emissions.” On Tuesday, a Johnson spokesman clarified “that the candidate only supports a carbon fee if current regulations on greenhouse gases were repealed.”
The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (8/23) reported that in an interview with CNBC on Monday Johnson cited “the collapse of coal power as an example of how the free market can effectively reduce emissions.” Johnson went on, “Coal is a great free market example right now. You and I do not want carbon emission. We don’t want it … Right now, natural gas costs less than coal. So there are no new coal plants that are going to be built, given the price of natural gas. And that’s something that you and I desire. So it’s happening. I’m afraid that coal, from a free market standpoint, has been done in.”
Nation’s Largest Infrastructure Project To Be Restructured.
Engineering News-Record (8/22) reports in its Evergreen blog that America’s largest infrastructure project, the $45 billion Alaska LNG Project, must fully restructure itself before Jan. 1, 2018. The Alaska Gasline Development’s project “includes putting an 800-mile pipeline in place to move product from a proposed North Slope gas treatment plant.” Commercial parties are “working together to consider commercial options to improve the project’s ability to compete in the global LNG market, which includes transitioning the project to state leadership instead of one relying on a joint commercial structure.”
NYTimes Analysis: More Corporations Draw Electricity From Green Utility Sources.
On the front page of its Business section, the New York Times (8/23, B1, Cardwell, Subscription Publication) reports that an increasing number of corporations are working to meet more of their energy needs from renewable sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. Walmart, Google, and Apple have all received a federal designation for their energy subsidies that allows them to become wholesale sellers of electricity across the country. The Times says Apple is also “intent on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production” and Google is a proponent of low-emission green energy.
Analysis Of OCR Data Shows 40% Of US High Schools Lack Physics Courses.
Education Week (8/24, Heitin) reports that an analysis of data from ED’s Office for Civil Rights shows that “2 in 5 high schools don’t offer physics,” even though the subject “is the cornerstone of many professions, including those in engineering, health care, aerospace, and architecture.” The piece touches on how important physics courses in high school are for “students hoping to pursue those and other science, technology, engineering, and math fields during college.” There are disparities from state to state, with only some 30% of schools in Alaska and Oklahoma offering physics classes.
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• Southern Nuclear, X-Energy To Collaborate On Advanced Reactor Design.
• Wells Fargo To Pay $4.1 Million To Settle CFPB’s Claims Of Illegal Student Loan Servicing.
• InfoSight CEO: Surveillance Cameras Too Unsecured.
• Apple Acquires Health Data Start-up Gliimpse.
• Judges Rule On Dakota Access Pipeline Construction In North Dakota, Iowa.
• Study Finds No STEM Gender Gap In Kindergarten.