Leading the News
Analysts See Solar Costs Dropping Below Coal Globally.
Bloomberg News (1/3, Shankleman, Martin) reports “solar power is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world,” and in less than a decade, “it’s likely to be the lowest-cost option almost everywhere.” Better technology, economies of scale, and manufacturing experience “has been key in boosting the industry.” Bloomberg reports that the average 1 megawatt-plus ground mounted solar system will cost 73 cents a watt by 2025 compared with $1.14 now, a 36 percent drop, according to a BNEF analysis. GTM Research expects parts of the US Southwest from $1 to drop as low as 75 cents in 2021, while DOE’s NREL expects costs of about $1.20 a watt now declining to $1 by 2020.
Valles Caldera Park Site Holds Geothermal Resources.
The AP (1/2) reports “federal officials said last week that the Valles Caldera National Preserve would become the 17th U.S. park unit with designated thermal features if approved.” National Park Service officials said the proposed designation would address geothermal development near the site “by requiring federal agencies to work with the Park Service to determine if proposed drilling to tap adjacent geothermal resources would adversely affect the preserve’s geothermal reserves.” Though the idea to tapping the site for geothermal power generation was abandoned in the 1980s, “interest in New Mexico’s geothermal resources has increased again recently as the state works to wean itself from fossil fuels and boost renewable energy development.”
Nation’s First Offshore Wind Farm Profiled.
The CBS Weekend News (1/1, story 10, 2:05, Quijano) ran a feature on the nation’s first offshore wind farm, off Block Island, Rhode Island. The turbines are expected to generate enough energy to power 17,000 homes.
Students At NYU School Of Engineering Take Part In Cyber Awareness Week.
The New Yorker (12/29) reports 31 students recently took part in Cyber Security Awareness Week at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. The New Yorker says the students’ mission was to “solve a murder mystery involving a fictional Presidential race by analyzing digital ‘evidence’ of security breaches.”
ED Releases Final Higher Education Distance Learning Rules.
The McAllen (TX) Monitor (1/2) reports that ED has released its “final ruling on distance learning regulations that higher education institutions must comply with in order to offer financial aid to students taking such courses.” The piece explains that under the Higher Education Act, colleges must “receive authorization from the state in which they are physically located in order to offer any type of financial aid to students,” and that the lack of language about those that offer courses across state lines created “challenges such as verification of student identity and gaps in protection of students as consumers, states the proposed rule.”
ED’s College Scorecard Profiled.
Federal News Radio (DC) (1/2) runs a piece on ED’s College Scorecard, which is intended to give prospective students “resources when looking for the college or university that’s right for them,” by offering “everything from school location and size, to what a salary might be for a particular program.” The piece reports that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell says the tool stemmed from President Obama’s calls several years ago for families to have greater access to college value data. The piece quotes Mitchell saying, “From the beginning we were aiming at the scorecard being very user friendly. That’s why the design team spent a lot of time out on the [National Mall in Washington, D.C.] talking to potential users, taking mock ups around the country. We wanted this to be a very forward-facing user interface.”
Higher Education Leaders Plan To Emphasize ROI Benefits To Trump.
Explaining that higher education leaders have an “unofficial consensus” that they “need to exert extra energy to help [President Elect] Trump understand the roles of institutions of higher learning,” Diverse Education (12/29, Stuart) reported that such a push – in line with Trump’s business background – will likely center on arguments stressing return on investment, according to Thurgood Marshall Education Fund President and CEO Johnny Taylor. That focus will represent a departure from the approach for President Obama, who viewed education more from a “civil rights or moral perspective,” Taylor explained.
Review Provides Insight For Georgia Lawmakers Seeking To Address Tuition Rises.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (1/2, Davis) reports a state auditor’s review has provided Georgia legislators with insight into college affordability as they mull a new plan for the university system, which has seen a 77 percent cost of attendance increase over the last decade. Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Fran Millar “said the report sets a base line for a legislative working group that will review the health of the state system in 2017 and make needed changes in 2018,” the Journal-Constitution explains.
Research and Development
Missouri Cybersecurity Task Force Releases Guidance.
The AP (12/30) reports a Missouri cybersecurity task force released guidance on improving public and private cybersecurity efforts. The task force “said in a report released Friday that it recommends continued investments in science, technology, engineering and math education as well as workforce development to make sure Missouri has and retains qualified people to work in cybersecurity.” The report “also recommends identifying organizational risk, raising awareness about cybersecurity and leveraging existing resources.”
Ex-IARPA Employee Now Running Quantum Computing Start-Up.
The Washington Post (1/1, Gregg) reports the start-up IonQ, which has “received about $64 million in government research funding” to develop quantum computing capabilities, is run by chief executive David Moehring, a “widely published physicist who recently left a position at” IARPA, where he was “responsible for managing government-sponsored quantum computing initiatives.”
Delphi Begins Courting Autonomous Car Customers At CES.
Bloomberg News (1/3, Naughton, Bergen) reports that car electronics form Delphi Automotive Plc “is shifting from stunts to selling,” noting that at CES in Las Vegas, the firm “will give test rides to hundreds of potential customers in driverless Audis over a course of rugged terrain and tunnels.” The firm’s intention is to “to walk away from this critical conclave with a handful of hot prospects for its self-driving system.” Meanwhile, Tesla Motors Inc., BMW, Ford Motor Co. and Volvo Cars “have all promised to have fully autonomous cars on the road within five years.”
Samsung Reportedly To Announce Why Galaxy Note 7 Caught Fire.
Mashable (1/2, Singh) reports Samsung will announce this month “the results of an investigation into what caused the Galaxy Note7 smartphone to catch fire, according to South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo.” In December, Samsung said it was working to “re-visit every step of our engineering, manufacturing, and quality control processes,” as to what may have caused the problem. Next Web (1/2) states earlier reports suggested “Samsung failed to follow standard safety regulation practices while testing the battery of the now discontinued series.” Company analysts and investors have pronounced how important it is for Samsung to find the cause “of the malfunction in order to restore consumer trust and avoid similar mishaps in the future.” However, they also said the company will need to take steps to regain customers’ loyalty. Phone Arena (1/2) cites the release of “an amazing new flagship phone, the Samsung Galaxy S8,” as part of the company’s effort to reassure consumers.
Reuters (1/1) featured similar coverage.
Engineering and Public Policy
Experts Find Trump’s Questioning Of Cybersecurity “Alarming.”
The Chicago Tribune (1/1) reports “President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly questioned whether critical computer networks can ever be protected from intruders, alarming cybersecurity experts who say his comments could upend more than a decade of national cybersecurity policy and put both government and private data at risk.” Former Defense Department policy adviser Michael Sulmeyer is quoted saying, “If they don’t want to make a full-fledged apology or correction about Russian hacking, okay, but at some point, they’re going to have to come out and explain their understanding of the threat and what they want to do about it. If we see that soon, I think that’s a good sign. If that slips, I think that will be an indicator that they are not prioritizing it and they are leaving the American people at greater risk.”
McAfee: Trump Must Accept US’ “Extreme Vulnerability” In Cyber Arena. “Cybersecurity pioneer” John McAfee writes in Newsweek (1/2, McAfee), “My hope is that President-elect Donald Trump is both smart enough and strong enough to ignore the U.S. internal propaganda and accept our extreme vulnerability in the current critical science of cybersecurity.” McAfee says that “one of the most frightening aspects of Trump’s published cybersecurity platform” is to have the Justice Department “create Joint Task Forces throughout the U.S. to coordinate Federal, State, and local law enforcement responses to cyber threats.” McAfee supposes that this task will fall to the FBI, and takes a dim view of the bureau’s cyber expertise. McAfee also takes issue with the FBI’s “use of cyber science in a manner that more easily allows the FBI to monitor American citizens so that the U.S. can be more ‘secure,’” which he considers “a perversion of the fundamental intent and productive use of cybersecurity.”
Donaldson: Trump Administration Must “Make Cybersecurity A Top Priority.” Will Donaldson, chief executive officer of Nomx, writes in The Hill (12/30, Donaldson, Contributor) “Pundits Blog” that recent large-scale breaches “should make all of us aware that the threat of data breaches poses a risk to everyone, from government to big business to individuals.” Donaldson says, “The outgoing administration has shown an appreciation of the gravity of the cybersecurity threat,” and adds, “We must expect the Trump administration to make cybersecurity a top priority by ensuring further investment in research and development initiatives to enhance cybersecurity policies.” Donaldson says the incoming Administration “must also take part in public-private partnerships” and “press for information sharing between intelligence communities, including outside the United States, to quickly identify and destroy hacker cells that target from afar.” Donaldson also calls for storing information not in “large clouds” but in “local home-based servers” that “give users the same capabilities, only without the dangerous vulnerabilities that these large companies continue to struggle with time and time again.”
Trump Could Boost NASA’s Footprint In Alabama.
The AP (1/2, Roop) reports Donald Trump’s campaign suggestions regarding NASA, “more deep space exploration, less Earth science,” may “bode well” for Alabama and for the Marshall Space Flight Center there. Obama cut Constellation, intended to enable a permanent moon base to support missions to Mars, from his 2010 budget after a study panel found it behind schedule and over-budget. “That finding fit with Obama’s preference to spend money on Earth science, including climate change research, and developing commercial space companies like SpaceX and Orbital ATK.” Constellation employed 500 NASA civil service workers and nearly 2,000 contractor employees in Huntsville, but “only the NASA employees kept their jobs.”
Prospects Of Carbon Capture Ahead Of Trump Administration.
The New York Times (1/2, Schwartz, Subscription Publication) reports on carbon capture technology’s prospects going into the Trump administration, highlighting NRG Energy’s new Petra Nova plant in Texas which will “draw 90 percent of the CO2 from the emissions produced by 240 megawatts of generated power” for use in oil and gas extraction. NRG “estimates that the next plant it builds could cost 20 percent less, thanks to lessons learned this time around,” and DOE’s David Mohler says “carbon capture is proving itself.” According to Julio Friedmann at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, carbon capture sequestration is “crucial for meeting emissions standards that can prevent the worst effects of climate change.” Mark Brownstein at the Environmental Defense Fund says “the technology only makes sense in a world where you are seeking to avoid putting CO2 into the atmosphere.”
Iowa Governor’s 2015 Inaugural Fund Donors Not Disclosed.
The AP (1/2, Foley) reports “a charity controlled by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad missed a legal deadline for disclosing the names of donors who paid for his 2015 inaugural celebration, keeping them secret even as he prepares to become the U.S. ambassador to China.” Branstad spokesman Ben Hammes said the group’s accountant plans to file an amended return and has been challenged in getting donor information as because the inaugural committee has disbanded. The 2014 donor list includes MidAmerican Energy which “complained directly to Branstad about a ruling from the Iowa Utilities Board that made its wind energy projects less profitable.” Branstad later “ordered a shake-up on the board, which one ousted regulator said was done to placate MidAmerican.”
Gillis: Weak Federal Powers Could Limit Trump On Energy Policy Rollback.
Justin Gillis writes for the New York Times (1/2, Gillis, Subscription Publication) that “the energy transition is real, and [Donald] Trump is not going to stop it,” as he will find as president “that the federal government actually has relatively little control over American energy policy, and particularly over electricity generation.” Gillis writes that “the intrinsically weak federal role was a source of frustration for [President] Obama and his aides, but now it will work to the benefit of environmental advocates.” More than half of US states have adopted mandates on renewable energy and federal subsidies “are already scheduled to fall drastically over five years,” in a deal cut with Republican support.
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Artificial Intelligence A Major Theme At CES 2017.
• Commentary Calls For Streamlined College Admissions Process.
• Startup Out Of Clarkson University Incubator Capitalizes On Error Propagation.
• Automakers Compete For Japanese Tech Talent.
• Lockheed Wins $450M Pentagon Contract For F-35s.
• Sen. Sullivan Looking To Push Back Obama Policies, Boost Infrastructure Spending.
• Pittsburgh Implementing Computer Literacy Program.