Leading the News
Trump Vows To Boost US Auto Industry, “Cancel” Obama Order On Fuel Standards.
President Trump’s visit to Ypsilanti Township, Michigan, which included remarks to hundreds of autoworkers and industry executives, generated extensive – and generally favorable – local TV coverage, as well as outrage from environmentalists and officials in Democratic states. Dominating the coverage of the President’s remarks are Trump’s “buy American and hire American” pledge and his announcement that he would move to reassess Obama-era fuel efficiency standards. The Detroit News (3/15, Burden, Thibodeau) notes that Trump indicated that “he thought the Obama administration overstepped by finalizing fuel rules that would require automakers achieve the equivalent of more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025.” Said the President, “If the standards threatened auto jobs, then common-sense changes could have and should have been made. … Just days before my inauguration, the previous Administration cut short the promised midterm review in an 11th-hour executive action.” WXYZ-TV Detroit (3/15, 4:59 p.m. EDT) showed Trump saying, “Today, I am announcing that we are going to cancel that executive action.”
Voice of America (3/15, Herman) reported that “the White House contends Obama broke an earlier agreement with the auto industry to review the standards by 2018,” though “advocates of the tougher standards dispute that.” The AP (3/15, Colvin) reports EPA Administrator Pruitt said of the standards that they “are costly for automakers and the American people.” Pruitt “promised a ‘thorough review’ that will ‘help ensure this national program is good for consumers and good for the environment.’” Car and Driver (3/15, Bigelow), meanwhile, noted “the Auto Alliance, the main lobbying arm of the industry,” praised “the decision to reinstate the review, which now reverts back to its originally scheduled time frame, which called for completion by April 1, 2018.” However, Reuters (3/16, Shepardson) reports Trump’s announcement on the CAFE rules “drew criticism on Wednesday from Democrats and environmental groups who accused him of risking more carbon emissions and higher fuel costs.” The Los Angeles Times (3/15, Mitchell) says “environmentalists went ballistic.”
Trump’s move, says the AP (3/15, Krisher, Daly), “could be the first round of a potentially bruising political fight: revoking the ability of California and other Democratic-leaning states to set their own, tougher car-emission standards.” California Gov. Jerry Brown “denounced the Trump administration’s move, telling…Pruitt in a letter” that the decision “was a ‘gift to polluters.’” Brown also “warned auto makers in another letter Wednesday that his state would take the ‘necessary steps’ to preserve its current emissions standards.” The Hill (3/15, Wilson) reports, in fact, that “Democratic attorneys general in 10 states are rushing to block” Trump’s move.
University Of Tennessee, King University Create Dual Engineering Degree Partnership.
The Bristol (VA) Herald Courier (3/15) reports that the University of Tennessee and King University have formed a new dual-degree program that “will allow students to earn bachelor’s degrees from both institutions.” Students will “complete three years of classes at King and earn a bachelor of science degree in applied science and mathematics. They will then be eligible to transfer to UT’s Tickle College of Engineering in Knoxville, where they will work to complete an additional two years of classes to earn a second bachelor of science degree in engineering.”
Commentary Calls On Trump To Deregulate For-Profit College Sector.
In commentary for The Hill (3/15) “Pundits Blog,” Let Freedom Ring USA President Colin Hanna writes about high unemployment in the US, and says that if President Trump “truly wants to achieve 4 percent economic growth” he and Congress “must reexamine policies regarding how Colleges and Universities operate — with an eye to helping these schools prepare a new generation of educated, skilled workers.” He criticize the Obama administration and “education elites” for working “to dismantle private colleges and universities offering students a career oriented education — career education designed to help students prepare for specific jobs in healthcare, computer networking, technology, automotive/aircraft repair, law enforcement, etc.” Hanna singles out ED’s gainful employment rules, urging support for legislation from Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) “designed to eliminate unnecessary federal regulations that restrict choice and opportunity in higher education.”
Reports Show Many Community College Students Homeless.
The Washington Post (3/15, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that a new study by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab in collaboration with the Associated of Community College Trustees (ACCT) found that 14 percent of community college students were homeless and 33 percent were going hungry while in pursuit of a college degree. The report showed that the findings were prevalent to all areas of the country and the students with children were more likely to experience insecurities that those without.
MarketWatch (3/15) reports that the research shows that beyond outright homelessness, roughly half of students “face housing challenges, like obstacles paying rent or utilities regularly or needing to move frequently.” The article says the research comes “as policy makers and higher education leaders are growing increasingly aware of the challenges college students face simply surviving while in school.”
UC-Berkeley Restricting Free Content After Department Of Justice Review.
The Washington Post (3/15, Larimer) reports that the University of California at Berkeley began to restrict public access to previously free videos and podcasts after the Department of Justice said it was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Post writes that findings were not the “lone factor” in the decision, but that it also took usage statistics and intellectual property rights into account. A statement from Gallaudet University said “the bottom line is that more people ought to have access to free academic teachings online, not fewer people.”
Research and Development
Navy Researchers Studying Seal Whiskers To Develop Better Underwater Sensors.
The AP (3/15, McDermott) reports US Navy researchers are studying how seals’ “whiskers function to learn how to reverse-engineer the system” to develop better sensors. Christin Murphy, a marine mammal biologist, and colleague Joy Lapseritis at the Newport division of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center said seal whiskers are “a highly sensitive system of underwater touch that employ bumps to reduce their own self-induced vibrations, something that may help increase their sensitivity to water disturbances.” The AP reports the warfare center is funded by the Office of Naval Research.
NASA-led Study Finds Aviation Biofuels Emit Up To 70 Percent Less Pollution.
GeekWire (3/15, Boyle) reports that in a NASA-led study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, scientists found that a DC-8 research jet powered by 50 percent biofuel emitted 50 to 70 percent less particle pollution compared to aircraft powered by traditional fuel alone. The flight tests were conducted in 2013 and 2014 as part of the Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions Study (ACCESS), and the results could provide “a potential boost” for an effort at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where the Port of Seattle, Alaska Airlines and Boeing are working to make biofuel available for flights.
Economic Reforms Needed To Address Technological Unemployment.
In his USA Today (3/13, Lagrandeur) column, Kevin LaGrandeur writes that President Trump’s maneuverings to stop the flow of jobs overseas, such as withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, are “politically shrewd — and doomed to fail” because the threat to American jobs is not offshoring, but automation. To address the “worst effects of technological unemployment,” LaGrandeur says it will “require radically new approaches to economic policy,” such as universal basic income, a shorter workweek, and a “mechanism for paying individuals when their personal data is used by technology firms to turn a profit.” This help could allow jobless Americans the “financial freedom to retrain for higher-demand positions, start their own businesses, or otherwise weather the coming economic shift.”
Expedia Sees Results From “Feminine Toned” Job Listings.
The Huffington Post (3/15, Peck) reports that data analysis firm Textio has found that job listings phrases words like “get your hands dirty” and “driven” are more likely to appeal male applicants, and are used more frequently in higher-paying positions. According to Textio CEO Kieren Snyder, employers can make positions more attractive to women by tweaking the language in the job listing. “Travel company Expedia, for example, rejiggered a job posting for an engineering role to include more feminine toned language and they hired more women, Snyder said. The original job post had skewed male.”
Representation Of Women In Cybersecurity Industry Remains Stagnant.
Security Magazine (3/15) reports that new research shows that the share of women in the cybersecurity workforce has remained steady since 2013 at 11 percent. The study from the Center for Cyber Safety and Education and the Executive Women’s Forum on Information Security, Risk Management & Privacy found that women in the cybersecurity industry have higher education levels than their male counterparts but receive lower pay and hold fewer senior positions. The data for the report came from the Global Information Security Workforce Study sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton.
NATO Aims To Become More Energy Efficient.
The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (3/15, Adragna) reported efforts by NATO “to make the military more energy efficient are aimed at both reducing its reliance on fossil fuels as well as shrinking its environmental footprint,” according to an annual report. The alliance “wants to provide new mobile power generators (such as solar panels, wind turbines and smart grids) and train the military to make sure that new energy technologies ‘can work seamlessly together’ in the field, where fossil fuels deliveries (such as oil tanks) could be disrupted.”
Engineering and Public Policy
North Korea Missile Test Heightens Concerns Over Potential EMP Attack.
The Los Angeles (CA) Times (3/15, Nikolewski) carries an article originally published by the San Diego Union-Tribune, reporting that North Korea’s recent missile test has heightened concerns about a possible electromagnetic pulse attack “using a nuclear weapon detonated in the atmosphere,” that could take down the U.S. power grid for up to 18 months. The article reports an EMP “could create massive currents that would blow through power lines, destroying electrical transformers and damaging power plants.” However, a report released by the Electric Power Research Institute, found that while “there would be likely be some failures but those failures are relatively small in nature and not in the hundreds as had been contemplated from some of the reports in the past,” according to EPRI Vice President of Transmission Rob Manning. The article mentions that EPRI’s research is funded by 50 utilities across the U.S., including Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric.
Texas Attorney General Sues DOE Over Yucca Mountain Licensing.
McClatchy (3/15, Daugherty) reports Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday sued the Energy Department, which is now headed by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, “over the federal government’s inability to come up with a permanent nuclear waste storage site.” The aim of the lawsuit is “to force the Nuclear Regulatory Commission into an up-or-down vote on the licensing of the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site in Nevada, a project that was scrapped after intense political opposition led by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.” In a statement Paxton said, “The NRC’s inaction on licensing Yucca Mountain subjects the public and the environment to potential dangerous risks from radioactive waste. We do not intend to sit quietly anymore.” The Austin (TX) American Statesman (3/15, Price, Subscription Publication) reports Perry is named in the lawsuit “as one of the defendants; others include the Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairwoman and the U.S. treasury secretary.”
The Las Vegas Review-Journal (3/15, Martin) reports the Texas Attorney General “claims that several federal agencies have violated the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act to provide a permanent repository for nuclear wastes generated by non-military reactors” across the country. Greenwire (3/15, Subscription Publication) reports the Energy Department didn’t “immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit” and the “NRC declined to comment” Wednesday morning.
The San Antonio Express-News (3/15, Gibbons) reports the lawsuit “comes as Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists seeks a license to begin accepting a portion of the waste at its site in on the Texas-New Mexico border in Andrews County, Texas.” Company officials “have said their site could work together with Yucca Mountain.”
Interior Set To Auction North Carolina Offshore Wind Rights.
ClimateWire (3/15, Subscription Publication) reports this week the Interior Department will auction its first offshore wind energy deal under the Trump administration. The auction covers development rights to 122,400 acres of the Atlantic Ocean near North Carolina’s Outer Banks called the Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area and opens at $2 an acre. Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, said President Trump’s “ambitious economic and job-growth agenda would undoubtedly be strengthened by a robust all-of-the-above energy approach, which would include a strong U.S. offshore wind program.” BOEM leased 79,000-acre parcel off New York to Statoil for $535 per acre, but “it remains unclear whether the Kitty Hawk site … will draw similarly strong interest” as coal, gas and nuclear power remain cost-competitive in the Carolinas and renewables account for a small share of the power mix.
California Rooftop Solar Growth “Slowed Significantly” In 2016.
The Los Angeles Times (3/15, Penn) reports growth in rooftop solar installations “slowed significantly” in 2016 “as California homeowners and businesses cooled to the idea of rooftop panels.” In 2016, “rooftop solar installations increased 19 percent…compared with an average growth of 63 percent year-over-year from 2012 to 2015.” The article reports that “industry experts attributed some of the slowing expansion of the rooftop solar sector to policies that have increased consumer costs as well as to moves by the utility sector to stifle homeowner and business efforts to generate their own electricity from the sun.”
Analyst: California Cap-and-trade Program Extension Could Raise Gasoline Prices.
The Los Angeles Times (3/15, Megerian) reports that according to Ross Brown at the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, an extension of the state’s cap-and-trade program along with tougher climate goals could raise gasoline prices. Currently, the price of permits sold in state-run auctions is less than $14, but could rise to $50 over several years, adding 45 cents per gallon at the pump. A separate low-carbon fuel standard is also expected to increase gasoline prices.
Cap And Trade Provides $1.4B For California Projects. ClimateWire (3/15, Subscription Publication) reports California has awarded $1.4 billion in revenues from the state’s cap-and-trade program to projects including high-speed rail, rebates for clean cars, funding for affordable housing near transit, and trees in urban areas. The news comes as the Legislature considers the future of cap and trade. The investment of cap-and-trade proceeds are “cutting greenhouse gases and improving air quality — and quality of life — for millions of Californians,” California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols said in a statement.
Eight New Mexico Teams Headed To National VEX Robotics Challenge.
The Las Cruces (NM) Sun-News (3/15) reports eight teams that competed in the fourth annual New Mexico VEX Robotics State Championship on March 4 “qualified for the national competition, VEX Worlds 2017 to be held in Louisville, Kentucky, April 19-22.” The state competition was hosted by the Engineering New Mexico Resource Network in New Mexico State University’s College of Engineering, and teams from high schools across the state took part.
National Science Foundation Gives North Carolina Community College STEM Grant To Help High Schools.
The Burlington (NC) Times-News (3/15) reports that the National Science Foundation has given North Carolina’s Alamance Community College a $199,592 grant “to develop a Mechatronics Technology Institute for the Alamance-Burlington School System. The institute — called “MechTech” — is estimated to affect 720 high school students and 45 STEM instructors by providing professional development for teachers through one-day workshops and a week-long summer workshop addressing mechatronics-based lesson plans, tours of mechatronics workplaces, speakers, maker-guild events, and an online resource community.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Researchers Display Phone Hack Using Sound Waves.
• Report: Student Loan Defaults Up 17% In 2016.
• LeHigh Engineering Professor Wins National Grant To Explore Energetics In Fish Schools.
• Consultant Says Science Infrastructure Key To Job Creation.
• Apple Hired High-Profile Security Expert Jonathan Zdziarski.
• Study: Methane Emissions From Refineries, Gas Plants Far Exceed EPA Estimates.
• National Nonprofit: Majority Of Finalists In Last Year’s IntelScience Talent Search Were Children Of Immigrants.