Leading the News
EPA Says Automakers Can Meet Current Fuel Economy, Emissions Standards.
The Detroit Free Press (11/30, Snavely) reports the EPA said Wednesday that while fuel economy and emissions standards in place through 2025 “will get stricter in the coming years,” automakers can meet them despite their “major lobbying effort aimed at relaxing” them. According to agency, it accelerated “the time frame to reach its conclusion” not because “it is rushing to finalize the rule-making process before President-elect Donald Trump takes office,” but due to “the vast amount of data it has been reviewing and the evidence it has revealed.” Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s office of air quality division, said the incoming Trump Administration is “really not on our mind.” Reuters (11/30, Shepardson) reports that the agency said it will push to lock in the fuel efficiency standards, which are “central” to the President’s climate policy, “before the Trump administration takes over in January.”
Stanford Engineering Class Has Students Working On Challenges Facing Defense, Intel Agencies.
Bloomberg News (11/30, Yoon) reports on a new graduate class at Stanford University’s engineering school called Hacking for Defense, or H4D, which “aims to harness the speed and flexibility of Silicon Valley innovation to help solve some of the most urgent and complex challenges confronting the country’s defense and intelligence agencies.” The class, capped at 30, includes interviews with “dozens of government officials, military officers, defense contractors, and intelligence agents.”
GAO: Government Will Forgive $108 Billion In Student Debt In Coming Years.
In a report to Congress Wednesday, the GAO said the Federal government will forgive at least $108 billion in student debt in the coming years. The Wall Street Journal (11/30, Mitchell, Subscription Publication) says the report is the first time the full costs of plans to set borrowers’ monthly payments as a portion of their earnings and eventually forgive some of the debt. The Journal adds that the GAO was also critical of the government’s accounting methods for its student loan program, citing problems that have resulted in significant changes to projected revenues over the years.
The Washington Times (11/30, Boyer) reports that while White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he had not seen the report, he said the President “has placed a priority on making sure that graduating students are treated fairly by the Department of Education and by lenders when it comes to their student loans.”
The Washington Post (11/30, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that the GAO says the cost of the program will be “far larger than Department of Education estimates,” calling ED’s “accounting unreliable.” The GAO says ED estimates are “not keeping pace” with rising costs and enrollment. In a letter to GAO, Deputy Assistant Secretary Amy McIntosh “said the agency has been working with Treasury to revise its estimates and agreed that there is room for improvement.”
The AP (11/30) reports that GAO “reviewed income-driven repayment plans the government offers to students struggling to pay back federal student loans” and “was highly critical of the Education Department’s budget estimates for the programs.”
Judge Allows Charities To Get Leftover Funds From Student Loan Settlement.
The AP (11/30, Chase) reports from Dover, DE that “a federal judge has agreed that $1.6 million left over from a government settlement with student lending giant Navient Corp. should be distributed to charities.” The Justice Department announced last year “that nearly 78,000 members of the military would be reimbursed under a $60 million consent decree with Navient, formerly part of Sallie Mae, because they had been charged excess interest on student loans.” In a court filing this week, “attorneys for both sides said that after identifying and paying eligible service members, roughly $1.6 million remains in the settlement fund.”
Research and Development
University Of Texas-Austin Engineers Develop Capsule To Improve Hemophilia Treatment.
KXAN-TV Austin, TX (11/29) reports that treatments for patients with hemophilia can be uncomfortable and difficult, saying “engineers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have developed the first-ever capsule to treat the disease, a less painful and less expensive treatment option.” The article explains why this process is difficult and explores the solution.
Northeastern Bioengineers Using 3D Bioprinting To Treat Vascular Disease.
TCT Magazine (11/18) reports that bioengineers at Northeastern University are “working on the advancement of 3D bioprinting which could revolutionise vascular disease treatment.” Associate Professor Guohao Dai is “pioneering a technology which will bring bioengineering solutions to challenges in vascular biology” by “bioprinting live tissue with vascular perfusion.”
CMU Helps Put Pittsburgh Near Front Of Automated Mobility Race.
USA Today (11/30, Gardner) reports Pittsburgh is drawing “more autonomous driving investment than anyplace outside Silicon Valley” because of “Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, the bumpy terrain and a high concentration of college students who don’t own cars.” CMU and Pittsburgh are continuously attracting businesses like Ottomatika and Uber, putting the city at the forefront of the “automated mobility race.” Carnegie Mellon consistently pushes technological boundaries, having “filed more than 140 invention disclosures for related technologies and has created 14 generations of self-driving vehicles.” Because of this, CMU has “been awarded at least $11 million in federal contracts,” including one from GM, which “spent $3 million to establish the GM Collaborative Research Lab” at the school.
Young Entrepreneurs Invent Crop Heat Stress Analyzer.
The Manila (PHL) Standard (11/30) reports that the “Philippine Rice Research Institute said a group of young entrepreneurs recently developed a device that measures crop heat stress.” The heat stress analyzer is equipped with a sensor, which is “connected to a mobile app that alerts farmers with heat stress presence and suggests measures to care for the crops.” One of the creators, Farnch Maverick Lorilla, said: “As of now, we are still continuing the improvement of the analyzer’s technology with the funding provided by the United States Agency for International Development.”
Toyota’s New EV Program Will Be Headed By Company President.
The Wall Street Journal (11/30, McLain, Stoll, Subscription Publication) reports Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda will direct the company’s electric vehicle project as it attempts to catch up to competitors. The Journal notes that while Toyota has been involved in developing batteries for hybrids, the company has been hesitant to invest in pure electric vehicles. The Journal adds that Toyota recently invested $1 billion in Silicon Valley for research related to autonomous vehicles.
Reuters (11/30) reports Executive Vice Presidents Mitsuhisa Kato and Shigeki Terashi will join Mr. Toyoda in charge of the division. A spokeswoman from the company said, “By putting the president and vice presidents in charge of the department, we plan to speed up development of electric cars.” Reuters notes the company’s chief hybrid engineer will also move to the EV program. Reuters adds that previously, Toyota had considered EVs only suitable for short-distance driving, instead focusing on hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles as it’s “green” option.
GoPro Slashes Workforce After Slow Karma UAV Sales.
Bloomberg News (11/30, Wang) reports that GoPro Inc “is eliminating about 15 percent of its workforce and shutting down the entertainment division to reduce costs.” GoPro had hoped the release of its Hero5 camera and Karma UAV would “revive growth and its stock price,” but the products have “failed to be the hits that management had been expecting.”
Bloomberg News (11/30) reports that despite GoPro’s intention to refocus on cameras and UAVs, “competition is mounting on several fronts,” including from Chinese UAV manufacturer DJI Technology. DJI has been developing UAVs “for almost a decade, and has built a robust engineering team and strong customer support.”
Engineering and Public Policy
2,300 Scientists Urges Trump, Congress To Respect Scientific Integrity, Independence.
The Christian Science Monitor (11/30, Williams) reports that scientists, including 22 Nobel winners, released an open letter to Donald Trump and Congress Wednesday, “hoping to convince Trump and the Republican Congress of the importance of accepting the scientific evidence for climate change” and arguing that “science should be a guiding principle in general for the leaders of the most powerful country on Earth.” The Washington Post (11/30, Eilperin, Mooney) reports the group of over 2,300 scientists, called for the lawmakers to “adhere to high standards of scientific integrity and independence in responding to current and emerging public health and environmental health threats.” The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy organized the letter because of comments made by Trump during his presidential campaign.
Expert Says Trump Should “Triangulate” Energy Policies. Consultant Paul Bledsoe, formerly of the Bipartisan Policy Center and Senate Finance Committee, writes for Politico (11/30) that President-elect Donald Trump should “triangulate” between Republican and Democratic policies rather than choosing one side, to capture the political and policy payoffs. Bledsoe writes that Trump should retain existing policies “that earn a spot for their profound economic benefits alone,” such as federal fuel economy standards, support for carbon capture, and “larger R&D investment into breakthrough energy technologies that have generally enjoyed the backing of both parties.”
Expert Says Trump Could Revoke GHG Guidance For Infrastructure Projects. The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (11/30) reported a senior policy adviser to the House Natural Resources Committee policy “said Tuesday overturning the Obama White House’s greenhouse gases guidance for infrastructure projects would be a top priority in the upcoming Congress.” Bill Cooper indicated “President-elect Donald Trump could revoke the August guidance — which requires federal agencies to include greenhouse gas impacts in their environmental reviews of major infrastructure projects — to save the committee time.” He added that the committee “would likely take a close look at National Environmental Policy Act in the interest of ‘streamlining’ it.”
EPA To Finalize Fuel Efficiency Rules Ahead Of Trump Inauguration.
Reuters (11/30, Shepardson) reports that the EPA said Wednesday it will lock in fuel efficiency standards before the Trump administration takes over in January. “The EPA under law had to decide by April 2018 whether to modify the 2022-2025 model year vehicle emission rules requiring average fleet-wide efficiency of more than 50 miles per gallon.” Instead, the EPA will end the public comment period by Dec. 30. EPA acting assistant administrator Janet McCabe told reporters the technical record could “arguably support strengthening the 2022 through 2025 standards,” but the EPA believes it “is not the time to introduce uncertainty by changing the standard.”
Thermostat Producer To Offer Voluntary Energy Usage Data To Researchers.
Forbes (11/30) reports that beginning in January, Ecobee CEO Stuart Lombard is inviting users of its smart wireless thermostat products to share energy usage data with researchers. “Despite the importance and universality of building energy use, research on the details has been surprisingly limited,” Forbes explains. Liam O’Brien at Canada’s Carleton University says access to the new data will change the way he uses his research resources. Researcher Jennifer Amann at ACEEE said she was “excited that ecobee wasn’t trying to monetize data into a product.”
Perryman Solar Farm Helps Save County Money.
The Baltimore Sun (11/30, Anderson) reports “tens of thousands of solar panels occupy a field on the Perryman peninsula,” that soak up “energy from the sun, turning it into electricity and storing it for government and nonprofit customers in the region who want to use it.” The solar farm “simply put…is a supplemental energy source that’s also saving money.” Harford County government “receives up to 2.7 megawatts to help power the nearby Sod Run Wastewater Treatment Plant.” Harford County “officials estimate they have saved $30,000 in energy costs this year” and “a consultant will evaluate those savings at the end of 2016.” The Sun adds, “Constellation, which merged with Chicago-based energy provider Exelon in 2012, owns and operates the Perryman solar facility.”
Trump’s Public Wind Energy Sourcing Claims Untrue.
ClimateWire (11/30, Subscription Publication) fact checks Donald Trump’s claims to date about wind energy, reporting that, contrary to his public statements, wind “is in fact a viable form of domestic energy.” Trump’s comments about the origins of US wind turbines, “which today number nearly 50,000 turbines in 40 states, were particularly misinformed, according to industry experts.” American Wind Energy Association Senior Vice President Rob Gramlich said in a statement, “Over 60 percent of a modern wind farm’s value is made in America by 21,000 factory workers,” while NREL data shows wind turbines are manufactured in nearly two dozen states, with 88 percent of all installed wind energy capacity reliant on US facilities. GE is the nation’s largest wind energy manufacturer and European international firms Vestas Wind Systems and Siemens “have significant U.S. footprints and employ thousands of workers in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida.”
Georgia Teacher Gets Grant To Start Robotics Program.
The Coastal (GA) Courier (11/30, King, Scott) reports that Farmers Insurance has given Becky Busby, a teacher at Frank Long Elementary School in Liberty County, Georgia, a $2,500 grant to “kick start her robotics program idea,” quoting her saying, “My goal is to start the very first robotics program in Liberty County right here at Frank Long Elementary.” The piece reports Busby “plans to use the grant to purchase Dash and Dot robots that students can program and code with iPads.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• TIMSS Shows US Students Still Behind Many Asian Peers In Math And Science.
• For-Profit College Sector Expects Regrowth Under Trump.
• MIT Researchers Freeze Water At Boiling Point In Carbon Nanotubes.
• Guest Writers Promote Presence Of Women Of Color In STEM.
• Ford To Begin Testing Self-Driving Cars In Europe.
• Study Forecast 15 Million Self-Driving Cars In 2025.
• Group Calls On President-Elect Trump To Appoint Adviser For Science And Technology.