Leading the News
Budget Would Cut $3.1 Billion From DOE Energy Research Programs.
The New York Times (5/23, Plumer, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports that according to the White House’s budget plan, $36 billion will be raised over the next 10 years “by selling off major American energy resources and infrastructure, opening up vast new areas of public land for oil and gas drilling, and redirecting state revenues from oil and gas royalties back to Washington.” Meanwhile, it “would cut $3.1 billion from energy research programs at the Energy Department, an 18 percent reduction from last year’s spending.” Critics argue that such cuts “could imperil American leadership in cutting-edge clean energy industries.” The Times says that while Congress is “highly unlikely” to approve the cuts, “the document lays down a detailed marker of the administration’s energy philosophy.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post (5/23, Mooney) highlights what it calls “an extremely deep cut aimed at the government’s leading clean energy research office.” The plan provides “just $636 million in new funding in 2018” for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, marking a 69 percent decline from the $2.069 billion allocated in 2017.
Greenwire (5/23, Marshall, Northey, Subscription Publication) reports, “The Trump administration wants to take a hatchet to the Department of Energy’s coal, efficiency, renewable energy and science programs,” and “much of the agency’s work on cutting-edge technology would be gutted.” DOE’s Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would be cut, while the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) would see “deep cuts.”
Trump Budget Would Focus Interior On Energy Extraction, Reduce Climate Research. The Washington Post (5/23, Dennis) reports the White House budget proposal would cut the Interior Department budget by about 12 percent and shift “the agency’s focus toward promoting fossil fuel drilling and extraction on public lands and in federal waters.” Under the proposal, “onshore fossil fuel programs would receive $189 million annually, an increase of $24 million; offshore programs would get $343 million, including a $10 million increase to update the nation’s five-year offshore drilling plan.” Meanwhile, and additional $16 million would go to the Bureau of Land Management’s “oil and gas management program to accelerate the rate at which its staff processes permit applications and addresses right-of-way requests for infrastructure projects.” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said, “We have not been a good partner with industry,” adding, “Energy production is vital to our national security and our national economy.” The Wall Street Journal (5/23, Carlton, Subscription Publication) reports that climate change and other science programs would receive less funding under the budget, and climate programs would be consolidated. Zinke has said that many of the programs are duplicative.
White House Budget Would Reduce Spending On Climate Change. The Hill (5/23, Cama) reports Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said former President Obama was “spending too much of your money on climate change, and not very efficiently.” He denied the Administration is “anti-science,” adding, “we want to do some climate science, but we’re not going to do some of the crazy stuff the previous administration did.’” The Washington Post (5/23, Guarino) reports, “Mulvaney invoked a musical that, seven years ago, won a government grant worth nearly $700,000,” incorrectly stating that the National Science Foundation awarded the grant last year. E&E Publishing (5/23, Subscription Publication) reports the White House’s proposed budget is “a sharp rebuke of the energy and environmental policies pushed for the past eight years by the Obama administration.”
Proposed Budget Would Cut Clean Air, Water Programs. The AP (5/23, Biesecker) reports the White House budget proposal “slashes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by nearly one-third,” including “dramatic cuts to clean air and water programs.” President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt “have called for increased fossil fuel production while expressing doubt about the scientific consensus that man-made carbon emissions are the primary driver of global warming.” Meanwhile, “environmentalists said the administration’s spending plan, if adopted by Congress, will lead directly to more pollution-related illnesses and deaths.”
Budget Proposal Would Cut Clean Coal Research. Bloomberg News (5/23, Natter) reports that despite President Trump’s promise to bring about “clean coal,” but his budget proposal would cut research into carbon capture and storage research from more than $200 million a year to $31 million, an 85 percent reduction. Brad Crabtree, vice president of fossil energy for the Great Plains Institute, said, “I think at some point the administration is going to have to decide whether they intend to keep their commitments to ensuring a future for coal.”
Budget Plan Would Sell Northwest’s Transmission Grid. The Oregonian (5/23, Sickinger) reports the White House budget plan includes selling publicly owned transmission assets, including those operated by the Bonneville Power Administration, which “will ring alarm bells and resurrect a debate about the control of assets that were built with federal dollars but paid for by local ratepayers.” Such a move “is a favorite proposal of conservative think tanks and lawmakers, and has surfaced periodically during the past three decades. But the region’s congressional delegation has always managed to beat it back.” The Tri-City Herald (WA) (5/23, Cary), E&E Publishing (5/23, Subscription Publication), and the Portland (OR) Business Journal (5/23, Subscription Publication) also cover this story.
Advocates Say Budget Breaks Campaign Pledge To Help Improve College Affordability.
The AP (5/23, Danilova) reports that higher education advocates say the budget contradicts Trump’s “campaign pledge to make college more affordable with its proposed elimination of subsidized student loans and cuts in other programs that help students pay tuition.” The AP quotes Education Secretary Betsy DeVos saying the budget “reflects a series of tough choices we have had to make when assessing the best use of taxpayer money. It ensures funding for programs with proven results for students while taking a hard look at programs that sound nice but simply haven’t yielded the desired outcomes.” The piece quotes American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten saying, “Donald Trump ran as a populist, but he is a governing as an elitist and this budget is a clear indication of that.”
USA Today (5/23, Yu) reports that budget would “cut back student loan programs aimed at borrowers who need the most help.” The article notes that Congress is not likely to pass the budget as is, but adds that “student advocates criticized the proposals’ details and said eliminating the targeted federal aid options would contribute to rising defaults and mounting loan balances.”
Budget Plan Won’t Impact Current Public Service Loan Forgiveness Candidates. The Washington Post (5/23, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that ED said Tuesday that college graduates relying on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program won’t be impacted by the budget, saying those already enrolled in the program will be grandfathered in. Trump’s budget proposal eliminates the program for future graduates.
Slate (5/23) reports in its “Moneybox” blog that “it appears the administration only wants to end the program for new borrowers.” Meanwhile, the administration “is proposing an overhaul of the student lending system that would streamline many of the options the government currently offers borrowers for paying down their debts.”
Despite Promise Of Help, ITT Students Still Waiting For Loan Forgiveness.
The Indianapolis Star (5/22) reports that on January 13, ED officials “signaled that past ITT students — people who graduated or dropped out of the shuttered for-profit college chain long before the Obama administration forced it into bankruptcy — had a chance to get their federal student loans discharged through a process called borrower defense to repayment.” However, “they are still waiting on the federal government to follow through.”
California Colleges Welcome Pell Grant Summer Expansion.
EdSource (5/22) reports President Trump signed omnibus budget legislation that included Federal funding for year-round Pell grants that “are expected to be as large as $2,960 a year for each recipient’s summer classes and other non-traditional sessions.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos supported the financial aid summer expansion, but ED “has not yet announced when the awards will be first made and how the grants’ sizes will change depending on the number of credits a student takes in the summer.” The general “thought is that students will not have to file another lengthy financial aid application.” EdSource says “California’s colleges and universities are celebrating” the move because it “will help more low-income students graduate on time and help reduce college debt, its proponents say.” National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators policy and Federal relations vice president Megan Coval said the expansion could also help older, non-traditional, and returning students “who have competing life demands and are balancing work, families and school.”
Research and Development
Google’s Artificial Intelligence Program Defeats Master Go Player.
The San Francisco Chronicle (5/23) reports that on Tuesday, an artificial intelligence program called AlphaPro defeated Ke Jie, a 19-year-old man from China, in the game Go. Ke is widely considered the world’s best Go player, and the game “might be humankind’s most complicated board game.” Go’s “sheer number of possible moves” presented “a big challenge for” DeepMind, the artificial intelligence department at Google’s parent company, Alphabet. The Chronicle says AlphaGo’s victory “showed yet another way that computers could be developed to perform better than humans in highly complex tasks, and it offered a glimpse of the promise of new technologies that mimic the way the brain functions.” China hosted the game but then censored its broadcast. “Anything that demonstrates that something special about China has turned out to be just another artificial intelligence problem that Google is better solving than any other company is additionally problematic,” New York University Shanghai professor Clay Shirky explained, “because it threatens the specialness of the culture.”
The NPR (5/23, Dwyer) “Two-Way” blog reports 19-year-old Ke Jie, a grandmaster of the game Go, is “impressed and thoroughly confounded by the result” of his loss to Google’s AlphaGo artificial intelligence program on Tuesday. Commenting on the difference between AlphaGo’s victory last year over Lee Sedol and its match with Ke Tuesday, Ke said, “Last year, it was still quite humanlike when it played, but this year, it became like a god of Go.” The story explains some of the deep learning used by AlphaGo, which was developed at Google’s DeepMind lab. The story also reports on Google’s relationship with the Chinese market, where Go has been popular for thousands of years.
Rice University Mechanical Engineering Students Develop Vegetable Cultivation Machine.
The Houston Chronicle (5/23, HazenRebecca.hazen@, chron.com) reports that for their Senior Capstone Design project, Rice University mechanical engineering students Jared Broadman, George Dawson, Sanjiv Gopalkrishnan, and Dominique Schaefer Pipps developed a vegetable cultivation machine that does not require “a large plot of land outdoors.” The students, under the name “Lettuce Turnip the Beet,” sought to produce one salad per week for an entire year. Gopalkrishnan said his team wanted “to make the project sustainable, easy to build and operate, and able to be used in an apartment setting. We have achieved all of our goals – our most recent harvest yielded eleven salads after four weeks of growth.”
University Of Michigan Engineers Use “Memristors” To Study Brain Recognition Capabilities.
Vice’s Motherboard (5/22, Byrne) reported University of Michigan engineers developed a “sparse coding” algorithm that uses grids of an electrical component called “memristor” to approximate mammalian brains’ pattern recognition abilities. In the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the engineers involved in the study described the result as “potentially much faster image processing – or processing of any other very large datasets that currently require a lot of computing resources to deal with.” The algorithm is particularly relevant to the study of “neural networks,” which Motherboard describes as “a thin metaphor” for a “superficial likeness.” Study co-author Wei Lu explained, “When we take a look at a chair we will recognize it because its characteristics correspond to our stored mental picture of a chair,” and even though “not all chairs are the same and some may differ from a mental prototype that serves as a standard, each chair retains some of the key characteristics necessary for easy recognition.”
University Of Pennsylvania Engineers To Lead Research On Concussions.
The AP (5/22) reported Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s foundation awarded the University of Pennsylvania a $9.25 million grant to research concussions. School of Engineering and Applied Science bioengineering chair David Meaney and Perelman School of Medicine Center for Brain Injury and Repair director Douglas Smith will lead research centered on “what happens to the brain at a cellular and network level when someone gets a concussion.” The project will also involve 10 faculty members from the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, Columbia University, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Philly (PA) (5/22) said the researchers’ “hope is that better understanding will translate to new and more successful treatments.” With the new grant, said Meaney, he and Smith will take their existing research on brain cells during a concussion and “take on higher-risk hypotheses that would be harder to sell to more conservative government funders.” If even one of their theories works, said Meaney, then “we could have a very different view of concussions.” Philly notes the researching team “will also try to develop a ‘brain on a chip’ technology that would allow researchers to better test treatments” and see “how damaged cells respond to treatment in their natural tissue environment.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Louisiana Planning For Infrastructure Needs Tied To Autonomous Vehicles.
Engineering News-Record (5/23, Louise Poirer) reports that “efforts are underway in Louisiana to determine the possible impacts and new requirements for highway infrastructure that may result should the use of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) grow.” The News-Record adds, “Louisiana’s Dept. of Transportation and Development (DOTD) announced that it has contracted Arcadis U.S. Inc. to provide technical support services and facilitate planning activities related to connected and autonomous vehicles and their impact on highway infrastructure.” The article states that the “multi-year, $2 million contract has Arcadis developing a strategic implementation plan for CAV implementation with the DOTD and performing intelligent transportation systems (ITS) architectures and system engineering analysis for CAVs.” The News-Record writes that while the timeline for CAV development is uncertain, “public agencies will have to lead the use of CAVs, and stakeholders are waiting for the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to adopt its final policies that will ultimately guide state adoption and deployment.”
DOE Moving Forward With Ceiling Fan Efficiency Standards.
The Hill (5/23, Devaney) reports the Energy Department is going ahead “with Obama-era efficiency standards for ceiling fans.” Although many Obama Administration rules have been delayed by the Trump Administration, “the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy said Tuesday it will continue with this rule.” The Hill adds that “the compliance date is Jan. 21, 2020.”
Bipartisan Group Of Legislators Seeks To Revive Clean Energy Tax Credits, Extend Nuclear Production Credit.
Bloomberg BNA (5/23, Dabbs, Kern) reports a bipartisan coalition of legislators is seeking to revive expired clean energy tax credits “for solar energy, fuel cells, microturbines and small-scale wind energy, among other industries” as well as “an early extension of a nuclear production credit.” They are expected to seek to add the bill to a larger legislative vehicle, such as a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code, although “congressional leaders indicate that individual revivals and extensions may violate the spirit of an overhaul.”
Nevada Assembly Approves Solar Energy Consumer Rights, Fees.
The AP (5/23) reports Nevada Assembly members “are giving bipartisan support to one arm of the Democratic majority’s push to make solar energy more accessible.” A bill would require companies in the state “to make rooftop solar contracts easier to understand and give broad rights to consumers.” The legislation “would establish a system for residential users to share daytime rooftop energy production with the power grid in exchange for credits toward nighttime and cloudy-day power.”
Wind Power Conference Meets In California.
The San Diego Union-Tribune (5/23, Nikolewski) reports California state Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, in his keynote address at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) WindPower 2017 Conference and Exhibition, said, “President Trump’s fossil-fuel fetish, economically, does not make any sense.” However, “some of the wind industry’s executives were much more conciliatory,” although AWAE’s board chairman Tristan Grimbert, CEO of San Diego-based EDF Renewable Energy, told the crowd, “The political context is a little challenging.” Still, he declared, “We are not just here to stay but to grow and grow and grow.” Kiernan said that while his group isn’t planning to seek an extension of the production and investment tax credits being phased out by 2019, he added, “We are calling for a level playing field.” As other sources of electricity have permanent tax credits and so, “We’re hoping that … Congress will look, as we’re phasing down ours, look at everybody else’s public support and phase them down or somehow levelize it.”
Chicago Public Schools Considers Adding Science, Financial Literacy To Graduation Requirements.
The Chicago Sun-Times (5/23) reports the Chicago Board of Education will vote on Wednesday whether to add additional science classes and a financial literacy course to Chicago Public Schools’ graduation requirements. The move would put the district “in line state guidelines, officials said Tuesday.” If approved, the changes would go into effect in the fall of 2018, and apply to all CPS high schools and the city’s privately-operated, publicly-funded charter schools.
CPS Chief of Teaching and Learning Latanya McDade said the goal is encouraging students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM careers, which are “growing at three times the rate of non-STEM fields,” reports WTTW-TV Chicago (5/23) on its website. Furthermore, McDade explained, the district hopes introducing financial literacy on a pass/fail grading system will help students make “empowered financial decisions.” District administrators acknowledged the additional graduation requirements will demand more counselors and teachers. WTTW-TV notes CPS and Mayor Rahm Emanuel also announced earlier this year the district’s new “Learn. Plan. Succeed.” graduation program, which will require the graduating “class of 2020 to formulate a post-graduation plan – anything from a college or military acceptance letter to entry into a gap-year, job or trade program – before they are allowed to graduate.”
Ohio High School Teachers Outline Results Of Project-Based CTE Program.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer (5/23) reports Berea-Midpark High School in Ohio introduced an advanced career and technical education program, called “Innovations in Science and Technology,” to its high school curriculum last year. To launch the program, the school partnered with Polaris Career Funding and received a $10,000 Southern Regional Education grant. At a board of education meeting on May 15, Berea-Midpark teachers Steve Blatnica and Heather Koczur presented a summary of the program’s results. Three of the 16 students who participated in the program also presented their classroom projects, which “included a water filtration system, a charging system for cell phones when electricity is not available and a laser tripwire perimeter monitoring system to secure a census of animals for a nature center.” Koczur told board members the program does not have predetermined study units or textbooks, and is “one of the very few truly project-based learning courses” available at Berea-Midpark.
Illinois High School Students Make Prosthetic Hand For Boy Without Fingers.
The AP (5/23) reports the JC Engineers Club students at Joliet Central High School in Joliet, Illinois “have built a prosthetic hand for an 11-year-old who lost his fingers on his right hand after a firework accident.” Using a 3-D printer, the students “put in hours” of work on the prosthetic “before and after school and during breaks.”
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• Microsoft Developing HoloLens Prototype Built Into “Normal-Looking” Glasses.
• Education Department To Limit Student Loan Servicing To One Company.
• Lithium-Ion Pioneer Leads Research On New, Longer-Lasting Battery.
• Report: Advances In Auto Technology Will Force Insurance Industry To Adapt.
• Investment Firm: Sale Of Equipment Would Stop Complaint Over Chinese Solar Cells.
• Toyota USA Foundation Awards $1.7 Million Grant To San Antonio STEM School.