Leading the News
Administration Moves To Repeal Clean Power Plan.
EPA Administrator Pruitt on Tuesday issued a proposed rule that would eliminate the Obama-era climate rule known as the Clean Power Plan. Pruitt said on Fox News’ Special Report (10/10), “The President made a promise to the American people that the EPA would not be an agency that picks winners and losers as we generate electricity in this country. The past administration made a commitment to declare war on coal. And effectively yesterday and today, that war is over. The war on coal is over.” The Washington Post (10/10, Eilperin) quotes a statement from Pruitt, which said, “We are committed to righting the wrongs of the Obama administration by cleaning the regulatory slate. … Any replacement rule will be done carefully, properly, and with humility, by listening to all those affected by the rule.”
The Hill (10/10, Cama) reports that the action is “a win to fossil fuel companies, business groups and Republicans – including Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general – who fought the climate plan from the start.”
The Washington Times (10/10, Wolfgang) says the move, which follows through on one of the President’s “vows to coal country,” will be “challenged in court, with environmental groups and Democrats quickly vowing to fight any move to repeal the CPP.” But Pruitt “says he’s on solid legal footing, and that repeal will save as much as $33 billion over the next 13 years.” The Washington Free Beacon (10/10, Harrington) likewise cites “senior Trump administration officials” who said the repeal “would save $33 billion in avoided compliance costs by 2030.”
Reuters (10/10, Gardner, Flitter) says the EPA “did not issue a timeline on replacing the plan, only saying it would issue a rule in the ‘near future,’” which “could delay fresh investment in electricity generation, an industry rife with aging plants, analysts said.” The New York Times (10/10, Friedman, Subscription Publication) reports that “those adept at reading between the lines of dense federal documents say the subtext reads more like: ‘Don’t hold your breath,’” adding that “industry leaders and environmental activists predict that…nothing will take its place for possibly years to come.” A New York Times (10/10, Subscription Publication) editorial calls the move “deeply disheartening,” and argues that if Pruitt offers a substitute plan, “it won’t amount to much, surely not the closing of any coal-fired plants.” The Los Angeles Times (10/10, Board) writes in an editorial that “the Trump administration will now have to make the case — eventually in court — that the Obama administration was wrong in declaring” the “necessity” of the Clean Power Plan. “That’s a hard argument to make, and one we believe will ultimately be unpersuasive.”
AFL-CIO Calls On SEC To Investigate Large Navient Stock Trades.
Reuters (10/10, Reuters) reports that the AFL-CIO “on Tuesday called on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate a few large trades in the stock of student loan servicer Navient Corp that occurred just before a government announcement favorable to the company was made public.” The confederation of unions “urged a probe into the purchase of shares of Navient made in a series of three trades on the last day of August, hours before a congressional committee disclosed that the U.S. Education Department would no longer share information about the company with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”
Bloomberg News (10/10, Nasiripour) reports that the “well-timed trades…spurred the AFL-CIO to ask regulators for a review of possible insider trading.” The piece explains that the trades came just before “a letter from the Department of Education to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau marking a critical shift in Trump administration policy” was announced. Bloomberg notes that in February, CFPB Director Richard Cordray sued Navient “accusing it of ‘systematically’ cheating student debtors by taking shortcuts to minimize its own costs.” The piece explains that ED in August accused CFPB of “overreach, saying it would no longer provide the regulator with information necessary to police loan companies such as Navient.” MarketWatch (10/10, MarketWatch) also covers this story.
Increase In Borrowing By Colleges, Universities Could Drive Higher Tuition Costs.
The Hechinger Report (10/10, Marcus) reports colleges and universities have in recent years dramatically increased the amount they borrow, which analysts say is often done “in the hope of shoring up enrollments, but in many cases leav[es] them financially weaker.” According to Moody’s bond-rating service, colleges and universities collectively owe $240 billion, and the annual cost of servicing that accumulated debt has risen to $48 billion as of 2012. “This means 9 percent of college and university budgets, on average, now goes to servicing debt, a cost that has been rising faster than enrollments,” the article explains, and experts believe “it’s reasonable to assume that this is driving increases in tuition.”
Former Education Secretary Spellings Discusses Rising Cost Of Higher Education.
Diverse Education (10/10) reports University of North Carolina system president and former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said Tuesday that for most American families, “the single most important fact about higher education is it’s not affordable.” Spellings, speaking at an Urban Institute event “meant to forge a more bipartisan approach to federal higher education policy,” said most families cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for even one year of higher education at a public institution. She lamented, “We have sold college as the golden ticket to middle class opportunity, then priced average families out of that market.” She warned that while the rest of the world grows more competitive, the US risks allowing “inequities in access harden into [an] unbridgeable economic divide.” Spellings, in “an apparent reference to protests over confederate monuments at UNC Chapel Hill,” also criticized how American colleges “have become unwilling participants in the nation’s culture wars, which she said in turn impedes their ability to serve students well.”
Research and Development
Nvidia Unveils Computer Chips For Full, Level 5 Autonomous Vehicles.
Reuters (10/10, Auchard) reports that “Silicon Valley graphics chipmaker NVIDIA unveiled on Tuesday the first computer chips for developing fully autonomous vehicles and said it had more than 25 customers working to build a new class of driverless cars, robotaxis and long-haul trucks.” Deutsche Post, DHL Group, and ZF plan to roll out a fleet of autonomous delivery trucks with the new chips beginning in 2019. The Drive PZ multi-chip platform, called “Pegasus,” is the size of a license plate and “can handle 320 trillion operations per second, representing roughly a 13-fold increase over the calculating power of the current PX 2 line.”
Bloomberg News (10/10, King) reports Nvidia Automotive Chip Business Senior Director Danny Shapiro said, “These are going to be the highest performing and most energy efficient for a Level 5 vehicle.” Shapiro added, “The technology is going to be ready before the laws are in the United States.”
The Silicon Valley (CA) Business Journal (10/10, Stangel, Subscription Publication) reports, “Santa Clara-based chipmaker Nvidia Corp. on Tuesday said it’s building a new AI computer that it believes will deliver fully autonomous, Level 5 driving within the next 14 months.” Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said, “In the old world, the more powerful your engine, the smoother your ride will be.” Huang added, “In the future, the more computational performance you have, the smoother your ride will be.”
Car and Driver (10/10, Bigelow) reports, “The advent of the Pegasus specifically, along with advances in self-driving technology in general, comes at a time when rates of traffic fatalities and injuries continue to climb on U.S. roads.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released new statistics last week, reporting “37,461 people died in traffic crashes in 2016, a 5.6 percent increase over the previous year.” Ars Technica (10/10, Gitlin) also reports on the new chips.
In an op-ed for MarketWatch (10/10, Shrout) Shrout Research Founder and Lead Analyst Ryan Shrout states, “Already a leader in mind share around artificial intelligence and self-driving technology, Nvidia unveiled at its GPU Technology Conference a new platform it promises will power fully autonomous vehicles.” Shrout adds that while some companies “may decide to vertically integrate, like Google and Tesla…Nvidia has created a significant lead over its competition with partnerships, development and the first true integrations in consumer products.”
Failing Plans To Cut Emissions, “Carbon-Sucking” Projects Would Be Needed By 2030s, Scientists Say.
Reuters (10/10, Goering) reports that scientists at Climate Analytics, “a science and policy institute,” said Tuesday that if “efforts to cut planet-warming emissions fall short, large-scale projects to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere will be needed by the 2030s to hold the line against climate change.” The article quotes Climate Analytics’ Bill Hare saying “if you’re really concerned about coral reefs, biodiversity (and) food production in very poor regions, we’re going to have to deploy negative emission technology at scale.” Meanwhile, scientists at the UK think tank Chatham House said that “carbon-sucking technologies may even be needed to hold the planet to a less ambitious 2 degrees Celsius of warming.” Some carbon-abatement ideas “include planting carbon-absorbing forests across large areas, then harvesting the wood for energy and pumping the emissions produced underground – a process likely to feature in an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report next year.” In addition, “machines might also be developed to capture carbon dioxide directly from the air and pump it underground or otherwise neutralize it,” Reuters writes.
Researchers Convene In Boston To Discuss Creating Organs For Human Use.
The Boston Globe (10/10, Nanos) reports at a meeting at the Harvard Club of Boston, researchers and scientists gave a HUBweek presentation titled, “The Organ Generation,” which discussed the possibility of creating organs and tissue in a laboratory for use in human patients. Researchers discussed using technology such as 3-D printers to build vascular networks in a kind of biological “architecture.” They also considered “personalized organ engineering” for particular patients’ needs based on new innovations using CRISPR gene-editing technology to “engineer the genetic makeup of cells so that they better match an organ recipient.”
Dell To Create Division That Will Focus On Internet Of Things.
Bloomberg News (10/10, Womack) reports Dell Technologies Inc. plans to spend a billion dollars over the next three years to create a division that will focus on developing products, research and partnerships in the IoT field. The company said in a statement that the new unit will be led by VMware CTO Ray O’Farrell.
Team Investigates Photoluminescence Of Under-Researched Perovskite Crytal For Various Applications.
Nanowerk (10/10) reports that Michele De Bastiani, a postdoctoral researcher in Osman Bakr’s group at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), and his colleagues, are researching an often ignored member of the A4BX6 branch of perovskite crystals. Cs4PbBr6 is “noted for its strong photoluminescence” and has potential applications in color-converting coatings on LED light bulbs, lasers, and photodetectors. The group’s research has found bromine vacancies in the crystal “act as traps for passing excitons. Confined in these traps, the excitons are much more likely to recombine and emit light.” De Bastiani explains, “Now that we have this fundamental understanding, our next step is to move on to potential applications. … The unique photoluminescence manifested by Cs4PbBr6 makes these perovskites compelling materials for electroluminescence devices, lasers and light converters.”
North Dakota One Of Nation’s “Leading Spaces” For UAV Research.
USA Today (10/10, Hughes) reports that North Dakota has “quickly become one of the leading spaces for drone research, experimentation and testing,” partially due to a state waiver allowing pilots wider latitude to fly at night and beyond pilot line of sight, as well as the presence of “the nation’s first commercial unmanned aircraft systems business park, Grand Sky.” Federal UAV rules, designed to minimize the potential of UAV and piloted aircraft collisions, are well-suited for states with open spaces such as North Dakota. However, Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site Director Nick Flom said that the industry “is moving at the speed of technology, not bureaucracy.”
Women Around The World Report Gender Issues In Tech Firms.
The New York Times (10/10, Tugend, Subscription Publication) reports that women in Europe in the tech sector “are very familiar with the concerns expressed by their counterparts in the United States — too few girls and young women studying science and technology in school, gender bias and sexual harassment in the workplace.” The Times reports that there are some cultural differences from country to country, but says that the issues in American companies “they have a global reach, not just because of their size, but because of the ways their actions resonate around the world. And even if gender issues elsewhere don’t make headlines, women on both sides of the Atlantic point to similar problems — although political and cultural disparities create different challenges and opportunities.”
Infosys Using Pilot Training Philosophies To Teach New Recruits.
Bloomberg News (10/10, Rai) reports that Indian outsourcing giant Infosys recently revamped its internal training program, sending instructors to visit “flight schools to see how professional pilots are taught to deal with fast-changing situations.” This led the firm “to model classes on flight simulators that teach recruits to work faster, think for themselves and anticipate corporate customers’ needs.” The new program “reflect[s] new thinking at Infosys as the company tries to move beyond the commoditized work of building and managing corporate computer systems.” The piece explains that CIOs “want projects to go live in weeks, rather than months, and expect engineers to solve problems on the fly.”
Iowa Employers Struggle To Recruit STEM Workers As Pay Lags National Average.
The Des Moines (IA) Register (10/10) reports that employers in Iowa are “reporting trouble filling jobs requiring” STEM education, even as “the state’s average pay for high-tech positions is 15 percent below the national average, federal statistics show.” Meanwhile, other reasons state tech firms are having trouble filling positions range from the fact that “Iowa doesn’t have a Silicon Valley, which offers a wealth of high-tech firms with well-paying jobs, to the state’s chilly winters and lack of natural amenities to attract and retain college-educated millennials, some experts say.”
Op-Ed: Don’t Fear Automation; Amazon Continues To Hire Despite Use Of Robots.
In an op-ed for The Hill (10/10), Chevy Chase Trust research analyst Bobby Eubank argues in favor of automation. While the term frequently is “associated with job loss,” he mentions that “Amazon, despite rapidly increasing its robotics usage, announced in July that it was looking to hire an additional 50,000 people for its fulfillment centers and also announced plans for a second headquarters with 50,000 jobs, each paying over $100,000.”
China To Open A New Quantum Research Supercenter.
Popular Science (10/10, Lin, Singer) reports that China is building a new $10 billion quantum applications research supercenter in Hefei, Anhui Province. The National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences, which is scheduled to open in 2020, will focus on quantum metrology and building a quantum computer – both of which contribute to “military and national defense efforts, as well civilian innovators.” Popular Science says, “This news comes on the heels of the world’s first video call made via quantum-encrypted communications and the completion of a quantum-encrypted fiber optic trunk cable.”
Honeywell To Retain Aerospace, Spin Off Two Business Units.
Reuters (10/10) reports that Honeywell International will reduce its operations to “four business lines, including aerospace, and spin off two businesses with $7.5 billion in revenue to help fund acquisitions.” Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk said that the reorganization will reduce revenues by about 18 percent, but will simplify the company’s portfolio as well as boost growth. The company’s “home and ADI global distribution businesses” will be sold, while the four remaining Honeywell businesses will focus on “aerospace, commercial building products, performance materials and safety products.” Adamcyzk said that he is “very excited” about merger and acquisition possibilities within the remaining units. However, some analysts said that Honeywell’s aerospace unit “may need to merge” to effectively “compete with larger rivals,” and that the company’s “poor record” on parts quality and delivery “could hamper its ability to win new orders.” Melius Research Analyst Scott Davis said that a potential merger with General Electric’s aerospace unit would greatly enhance Honeywell’s competitiveness against United Technologies and make it a “more powerful supplier to Boeing Co and Airbus SE.” Adamczyk has downplayed this idea, however, arguing, “The way we compete in aerospace is not through scale. We are going to compete through technology differentiation.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Executives Say Energy Sector Resilient To Rising Challenges.
The San Antonio Express-News (10/10, Hiller) reports the energy industry is facing challenges from low commodity prices, the rise of electric vehicles, and the sheer amount of data that needs to be tracked, but executives speaking at the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition said the industry is resilient. Executives pointed to advances in technology and efficiency that have driven well costs down, ensuring the sector can be economically competitive. Devon Energy CEO Dave Hager said, “The way we’re doing it now is dramatically different than the way we did it in the early 2000s,” while Baker Hughes CEO Lorenzo Simonelli said, “People forget that electricity needs to created by something. … We’re here for numerous decades to come.”
DOE Investing In Biofuel Potential Of Seaweed.
NBC News (10/10, Caughill) reports on its website that the DOE “has invested nearly $1.5 million in projects that will help establish large-scale seaweed farms for the purpose of making biofuel.” Seaweed “can be processed into a biofuel that could be used to power our homes and vehicles. The DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program is funding projects across the country to make the large-scale cultivation of seaweed a reality, supporting another alternative to fossil fuel use.”
Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule Opposed By Diverse Coalition.
The Houston Chronicle (10/10, Osborne) says, “add the nation’s factories and industrial plants to the list of groups fighting Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to save the coal and nuclear power industries.” The trade group Industrial Energy Consumers of America, which opposes the plan, “claims to represent companies consuming 26 percent of the nation’s power supply, [and] is a particularly important voice for the Trump administration, which has made growing domestic manufacturing a priority in his first term.”
Forbes (10/10, Adams) contributor Rod Adams says that some energy business observers were surprised when solar and wind industry trade groups joined with oil and gas lobbying groups, like the American Petroleum Institute, to oppose the proposed rule. He says, “others already knew the seemingly diverse trade groups shared similar strategic goals” and have a “vested interest” in pushing coal and nuclear power plants out of the competitive market so that renewables and natural gas have “room to grow and to restore profitable pricing.”
House Subcommittee To Consider Offshore Drilling Revenue Bill.
E&E Daily (10/10, Subscription Publication) reports that a House subcommittee will meet on Wednesday to review a draft bill that would “ease offshore drilling in federal waters while also steering revenues to certain coastal states.” Known as the “Accessing Strategic Resources Offshore (ASTRO) Act,” the bill would direct “50 percent of the revenue from offshore oil and gas production to the general treasury, with another 50 percent directed to a separate account to be distributed to certain coastal states.”
House Subcommittee To Hold Hearing On Draft Revising Federal Energy Regulations. E&E Daily (10/10, Subscription Publication) reports the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a hearing on Friday to discuss draft legislation that would ease federal regulations on oil and gas development in order to foster “domestic energy independence.” The legislation would revise restrictions on drilling in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, hydraulic fracturing and federal oversight of general drilling activity.
Three North Carolina Legislators Warn That Industry Fight Could Hurt Renewable Energy.
The Charlotte (NC) Business Journal (10/10, Subscription Publication) reports that three North Carolina state legislators are warning that Duke Energy and the state’s “growing solar industry could squander hard-won compromise legislation on the state’s renewable energy future in a deepening dispute over its implementation.” Duke’s “utilities, solar developers, renewable energy advocates and others worked – and occasionally fought – to hammer out a policy for solar and other renewable energy sources in the state,” but solar developers “and their supporters were wary of giving Duke…too much power over the bidding process.” The legislators warned that a fight over the matter could hurt the agreement.
STEM Education Advocate Warns Against ED’s Proposal To Stop Collecting AP Data.
National Math and Science Initiative chief executive and 2016-17 Annie E. Casey Foundation Children and Family Fellow Matthew Randazzo, in a piece for The Hill (10/10, Randazzo), calls ED’s proposal to stop collecting Advanced Placement exam performance data “dismaying, disheartening and wrong.” Randazzo argues, “This is the very time we should be expanding access to data and increasing transparency, not limiting its collection, analysis and action.” In light of the “massive gap in girls and minorities striving in the growing fields of STEM studies and professions,” Randazzo stresses this “AP testing data help identify STEM deserts.” He calls on groups and education leaders “to join our effort to eradicate STEM deserts in the next decade,” and “on parents, teachers, business owners and others to contact the department and Congress in support of the continued collection of AP exam performance data and in support of public policies that put our collective dollars to effective use where they are most needed.”
National Lab Scientists Criticize New Mexico Science Standards.
The AP (10/10, Lee) reports 61 scientists and engineers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico “are voicing disagreement with public school science standards proposed by the state, cautioning that the guidelines could weaken the study of climate change, evolution and earth sciences.” In a letter published in a full-page newspaper ad on Monday, the senior technical staff “wrote to the New Mexico Department of Education to express their disagreement” and “said the proposed standards suggest the denial of human-caused climate change as well as possibility of an alternative scientific explanation for the history of life on earth other than evolution.”
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• Pruitt Announces Repeal Of Clean Power Plan.
• Researchers Develop AI To Detect Objects Hidden By Blind Corners.
• Sephora Uses Simple Approach To Create Majority-Female Technology Team.
• NYTimes Analysis: China Working Towards A Future Of Electric Vehicles.
• 3D Printing Technology Pushes Deeper Into Manufacturing, Enabling More Complex Products.
• Perry Defends Financing Proposal To Benefit Nuclear, Coal Plants.