Monthly Review: February 2007
This monthly review goes out to the leadership of AGI's member societies, members of the AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee, and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.
Join us for the 12th annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD) on May 1-2, 2007. This two-day annual event brings scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology. Participants will spend the first day learning about how Congress works, the current state of the budget process and how to conduct congressional visits. The second day will consist of visits with members of Congress. In addition to the workshops and visits, participants will get to meet other scientists and engineers, meet federal science agency representatives and attend a reception and breakfasts at which members of Congress will speak and meet with the audience.
Please consider participating in these visits and plan early to come to Washington DC. Many scientific societies are involved in CVD, including several of AGI's Member Societies. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America and the Soil Science Society of America are very active participating societies in CVD and can help coordinate your visits. In addition, these societies and AGI will coordinate some geoscience activities on May 1.
Individuals interested in participating should contact the Government
Affairs Program at email@example.com.
Congress continued to hold hearings on climate change in both chambers
and across many different committees. Geoscientists were key witnesses
in many hearings. Perhaps the most provocative and interesting hearing
was the February 8th overview of one part of the findings of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Fourth Assessment Report. The House
Science and Technology Committee invited four co-authors of the IPCC's
summary for policy makers of the first volume of the report, titled
"Climate Change 2007:
The Physical Science Basis" to testify. In an unusual twist,
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was the first witness and she offered
strong support for the findings of the IPCC policy summary. Later
on in the hearing, NOAA atmospheric scientist Susan Solomon got into
a terse conversation with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) about the amount
of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that can be directly attributed
to human influence and Professor Richard Alley delighted the members
with a pancake analogy. An archived
web cast of the hearing is available from the committee web page.
Many more hearings are expected in March, including the testimony
of more geoscientists and the former Vice President Al Gore.
Like the climate change debate, the 110th Congress is also keenly focused on energy policy and in many cases the two are intimately coupled in discussions and proposed legislation. Congress held multiple hearings across many different committees about energy policy and considered measures to diversify the nation's energy portfolio, improve efficiency and conservation, reduce the nation's demand for imported fossil fuel products, reduce the environmental impacts of energy use, improve global energy security and enhance research and development to meet future energy needs. Many of these measures will require geoscientific information and help from geoscientists and engineers working in applied geoscience fields.
Among the many energy hearings, the House Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development February 28 hearing on "A Ten Year Energy Outlook" was particularly informative. Guy Caruso, the Energy Information Administrator was the first witness and he reviewed the recently released Annual Energy Outlook, 2007. After summarizing some pessimistic numbers about future energy demands, he told the committee he wanted to end his testimony on "a note of optimism" which drew faint laughter. He then noted that EIA's energy outlook in the 1970s had projected energy use in 2006 that was at least 50% off the mark, so future projections for 2030 might also be too high. Caruso was followed by Jim Wells, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Wells was very pessimistic as he presented the results of a GAO report entitled "Key Challenges Remain for Developing and Deploying Advanced Energy Technologies to Meet Future Needs". He indicated that the Energy Department's research and development (R&D) has been a failure since 1978 because the nation has not reduced its dependence on fossil fuels by any significant fraction. He concluded that cheap energy is now gone and the future will be "unsettling" for consumers.
The second panel of 6 witnesses focused on a ten year outlook for energy R&D. All of the witnesses agreed that the federal government and the private sector in the U.S. was not spending enough on R&D. They also agreed that the U.S. needs to consider a diverse energy portfolio to meet future demand and that all energy resources should be adequately supported with R&D funds because all of these resources will be needed now and in the future. Professor Daniel Kammen from the University of California, Berkeley documented a disturbing decrease in energy R&D spending by the government and the private sector. He noted that the U.S. invests about $1 billion less in energy R&D than it did a decade ago. All of the representatives who attended the hearing, including the Chairman Peter Visclosky (D-IN) and Ranking Member David Hobson (R-OH) agreed that energy R&D spending should be increased and their committee would like to support appropriate increases for energy R&D.
Also see AGI's
Government Affairs web page on Energy for more summaries of hearings
and other actions.
On February 13, Senate bill S. 39, entitled "Ocean and Coastal Exploration and NOAA Act (OCEAN Act)" was approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The measure, if successful in the full Senate and House, would authorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in concert with the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies, to spend $486 million over 10 years on a coordinated program with a focus on deep sea regions research, the location of historic shipwrecks and submerged sites, and public education programs. An amendment to the bill would also require NOAA to study and evaluate U.S. coastal resources, with a focus on wave, current, tidal and biological resources in the coastal areas.
In addition, S. 39 also authorizes $278 million for an undersea research program to establish a national undersea research center and research projects on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Another $296 million would fund a coordinated effort to map federal coastlines, the Exclusive Economic Zone, the outer continental shelf, other territorial waters and the Great Lakes, as well as three joint hydrographic centers to aid the mapping project.
The full text and summaries of the bill is available from Thomas
On February 28, the House Science and Technology Committee passed
four bills that would help the U.S. maintain a competitive advantage
in science and technology. The "Sowing the Seeds Through Science
and Engineering Research Act", (H.R. 363) would require the National
Science Foundation (NSF) and the Office of Science within the Department
of Energy (DOE) to award grants to scientists and engineers at the
early stage of their careers at institutions of higher education and
certain research organizations, such as museums, observatories, or
research laboratories. NSF would be required to allocate 3.5% of its
Research and Related Activities per year for the early career awards
and 1.5% of its Research and Related Activities per year for graduate
education and research traineeship awards. DOE would be authorized
to receive as much as $25 million per year to pay for its early career
grants. The programs would run for a 5 year period from 2008 to 2012.
The full text and summaries of the bills are available from Thomas
Since 2002, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act has been the cornerstone
of federal K-12 education policy. Within NCLB, the primary effect
on Earth science education has been the establishment of Math and
Science Partnerships in the Department of Education and the National
Science Foundation (NSF). NCLB also requires that states begin assessing
science proficiency in the 2007-2008 school year. With this requirement,
states have the opportunity to set standards, determine curricula
and review education programs. This is also a time for the Earth science
community to advocate for and explain the value of Earth science in
curricula, testing and standards. NCLB, the Higher Education Act (HEA)
- which focuses on federal student aid, contains scholarship and loan
relief provisions for math and science students and teachers, and
NSF are all up for re-authorization in fiscal year 2008. Congress
is likely to consider their overlapping objectives in crafting any
changes to these programs. A number of education initiatives have
also been proposed as part of a new focus in Congress and the White
House on innovation and U.S. competitiveness.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has added a new panel focused on energy and renewables to the Agriculture Committee. Dubbed the "Energy, Science and Technology" panel, the new subcommittee will be led by Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Senator John Thune (R-SD), who are both biofuel advocates. According to a statement by Senator Harkin in an E&E Special Report, the panel's focus will include renewable energy production, energy efficiency improvement on farms and ranches, research, and new uses for agricultural commodities.
NASA announced on February 12 that Dr. S. Alan Stern will be replacing Dr. Mary L. Cleave as the agency's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate in April. Dr. Cleave, who has served as the associate administrator since fall 2005, announced her retirement in the fall of last year.
Dr. Stern, a planetary scientist with a doctoral degree in astrophysics and planetary science from the University of Colorado at Boulder, will be joining NASA from the Southwest Research Institute's Space Sciences and Engineering Divisions, Boulder, Colorado. As chief executive of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Stern will oversee research and scientific exploration programs for Earth studies, space weather, the solar system and the universe beyond. He will also manage a broad spectrum of grant-based research programs and spacecraft projects to study Earth and the universe.
For more information about NASA and its suite of science programs, go to http://science.hq.nasa.gov/
In February, 15 people, including several seismologists and geotechnical engineers, were named to the new National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction (ACEHR). Established by the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977, NEHRP is the federal government's program to reduce the risks to life and property from earthquakes. NEHRP consists of four federal agencies: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). Congress designated NIST as the lead agency for NEHRP in 2004.
The responsibilities of the new independent advisory committee include
assessing: (1) trends and developments in the science and engineering
of earthquake hazards reduction;
For more information on NEHRP, including biographical information
on the advisory committee members, go to www.nehrp.gov.
In February, the European Union (EU) announced that the "innovation gap" between Europe and the United States continues to narrow for the fourth year in a row. For the past several years, Congress has considered the growing concern that the U.S. is losing its innovative and competitive edge in the global market. Government and non-government reports, as well as coalitions from industry, government and academic sectors, have called upon Congress to increase funding for physical science research and development (R&D) to ensure the nation's competitive edge in an increasingly technology-driven global economy. The EU and countries like China and India are committing record amounts of funding to R&D, while the U.S. has been decreasing funding for non-defense physical science R&D for many years.
As noted in the January 2007 Monthly Review, the Department of Energy has seen significant decreases in energy R&D at a time when the nation needs R&D to solve critical energy supply and demand issues. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on "Key Challenges Remain for Developing and Deploying Advanced Energy Technologies to Meet Future Needs" notes that "DOE's total budget authority for energy R&D dropped by over 85 percent (in real terms) from 1978 to 2005 "
The European Innovation Scoreboard 2006 (EIS), published in late February, reinforces concerns about U.S. competitiveness. According to the report, the innovation performance of a country's economy is based on a range of indicators, including education levels, expenditures in the information and communication technologies sector, investment in R&D, and the number of patents filed. America's innovation edge is primarily due to more early-stage venture capital, a larger fraction of the population with a tertiary education and a larger number of U.S. patents. According to the report, which presents a comparative analysis of the innovation performance of the EU, the U.S. and Japan, the innovation "leaders" are Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Japan. The innovation "followers" are the United Kingdom, Iceland, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, and the United States.
For more information about what Congress is considering related to
innovation and competitiveness see AGI's Government Affairs web page
On February 27, 2007, the European Commissioner for Science and Research,
Janez Potoznik, announced the formation of the European
Research Council (ERC). ERC will fund "research at the frontiers
of science" with an annual budget of about one billion euros.
The ERC will directly fund researchers, based on the scientific excellence
of their proposals. The ERC's Scientific Council - not the European
Commission, or anyone else - will be responsible for scientific strategy
and implementation and ERC operations will be autonomous, through
an Executive Agency. The ERC will offer two types of grants, one for
young principal investigators (2 to 9 years beyond their PhD) and
one for principal investigators who are considered top research leaders.
The grants will range from 100,000 to 500,000 euros over as long as
a 5 year time period. Candidates of any country or origin may apply,
however, they must be sponsored by a legally-recognized public or
private research organization situated in the European Union or associated
Each year, the President of the United States recognizes outstanding
mathematics and science teachers by honoring them with the Presidential
Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).
Exemplary mathematics and science teachers from kindergarten through
12th grade are eligible for the award, which recognizes teachers from
the 50 states, Washington, D.C., Department of Defense Schools, Puerto
Rico, and the U.S. territories. PAEMST awardees are "a premier
group of highly qualified teachers who have both deep content knowledge
of the subjects they teach and the ability to motivate and enable
students to be successful in these areas."
In response to a series of disasters that have beset the United States in recent years, the National Research Council (NRC) has published several studies that examine the research and development tools that can help mitigate the risks and respond more effectively when a natural disaster does occur. In February, the NRC published a new report entitled "Successful Response Starts with a Map: Improving Geospatial Support for Disaster Management." The report emphasizes the need for accurate geospatial data and tools in emergency situations. The report assesses the status of the use of geospatial data, tools, and infrastructure in disaster management, and recommends ways to increase and improve their use.
More than 100 dignitaries signed their names to an open letter to Congress urging them to support a sustained funding effort to benefit the National Park Service in advance of its centennial in 2016. Among the august signatories were former President Jimmy Carter, former First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson, former Vice President Walter Mondale, Walter Cronkite, Warner Bros. President and CEO Alan Horn, former Sen. Bennett Johnston (R-La.), author David McCullough, actors Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Robert Redford, media mogul Ted Turner, and former EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.
"Fifty years ago, President Eisenhower launched Mission 66, a 10-year, $1 billion dollar program approved by Congress that upgraded park facilities, staffing and resource management capabilities throughout the park system to commemorate its fiftieth anniversary in 1966," the letter states. "We are now calling on Congress to make a proportional investment as we approach the 100th anniversary of the National Park System."
AGI is seeking outstanding geoscience students and recent graduates
with a strong interest in federal science policy for a twelve-week
geoscience and public policy internship in summer 2007. Interns will
gain a first-hand understanding of the legislative process and the
operation of executive branch agencies. They will also hone their
writing and web-publishing skills. Stipends for the summer interns
are made possible through the generous support of the AIPG Foundation.
Applications must be postmarked by March 15, 2007. For more information,
please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/interns/internsu.html
NSF: The Division of Ocean Sciences in the Directorate for Geosciences
has prepared a draft Environmental Assessment for a low-energy marine
seismic survey by the Research Vessel Roger Revelle in the northeastern
Indian Ocean in international waters during May-August 2007. The draft
Environmental Assessment is available for public review for a 30-day
period. Comments must be submitted on or before March 9, 2007. For
more information, contact Dr. William Lang at (703) 292-7857 or visit
NRC: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold open meetings regarding
the Sunshine Act during the weeks of February 12, 19, 26; March 5,
12, 19, 2007 in the Commissioners' Conference Room, 11555 Rockville
Pike, Rockville, Maryland. For complete information, go to http://www.nrc.gov/what-we-do/policy-making/schedule.html.
NASA: The NASA International Space Station Advisory Committee will
hold an open meeting on Thursday, March 22, 2007, 1 p.m.-2 p.m. Eastern
Daylight Time at NASA Headquarters, 300 E. Street, SW., Room 7U39,
Washington, DC 20546. For further information, contact Mr. Larry Kenyon,
Office of External Relations, (202) 358-0644.
NOAA: NOAA announces a FY 2007 Broad Agency Announcement Request
for Extramural Research, Innovative Projects, and Sponsorships. Proposals
will be accepted on a rolling basis up to 5 p.m. ET September 28,
2007. Applications shall be evaluated for funding generally within
3 to 6 months of receipt. For further information, see http://www.grants.gov.
CEQ: The Council on Environmental Quality requests comments on their
new publication, "A Citizen's Guide to the National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA)." This is a guide to help citizens and organizations
who are concerned about the environmental effects of federal decision-making
to effectively participate in federal agencies' environmental review
process under NEPA. To view the guide, go to http://www.NEPA.gov.
Written comments should be submitted on or before March 30,
NIST: The American Petroleum Institute announces its intent to develop
or revise standards and requests public comment and participation
in standards development. For more information, visit http://www.api.org.
NSF: The National Science Board Commission on 21st Century Education
in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics will hold an
open meeting on Thursday, March 8, 2007, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. EST to
discuss a draft report. Room 1235 at the National Science Foundation,
4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia will be available to the public
to listen to this teleconference meeting. For more information, contact
Dr. Elizabeth Strickland at 703-292-4527 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
BLM- The Bureau of Land Management is soliciting comments on proposed
rulemaking related to regulations on surface management under the
Mining Law in 43 CFR subpart 3809. These regulations were challenged
because they did not require fair market value payment for the use
of Federal lands for mining operations when the lands are "invalidly
claimed" or unclaimed under the Mining Law. The court has ordered
these regulations to be re-evaluated. For more information, contact
Scott Haight at (406) 538-1930, for information relating to the surface
management program or the nature of the notice, or Ted Hudson at (202)
452-5042 for information relating to the rulemaking process generally.
Comments must be submitted by April 24, 2007.
DoE- The Department of Energy (DOE) has decided to cancel the preparation
of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the assessment
of potential environmental impacts from DOE's Carbon Sequestration
Program, as described in a Notice of Intent published in the Federal
Register on April 21, 2004 (69 FR 21514). For further information,
contact Heino Beckert, National Energy Technology Laboratory, U.S.
Department of Energy, P.O. Box 880, Morgantown, WV 26507-0880, by
telephone (304) 285-4132, or electronic mail at email@example.com.
USGS- The USGS-CCSP Committee for Synthesis and Assessment Product
3.4: Abrupt Climate Change will meet at the Hyatt Regency hotel in
Reston, Virginia on March 26-28, 2007. The goal of the workshop is
to produce a detailed outline of topics for consideration in the Synthesis
and Assessment Product and establish writing assignments. The agenda
will focus on the state of the science regarding the topic of ``abrupt
climate change.'' For further information and to pre-register, contact
John McGeehin (DFO), U.S. Geological Survey, 12201 Sunrise Valley
Drive, M.S. 926A, Reston, VA 20192, (703) 648-5349, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs
portion of AGI's web site www.agiweb.org/gap since the last monthly
Sources: New York Times, AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program,
Associated Press, Washington Post, Greenwire, E&E Daily, Library
of Congress, Congressional Quarterly, Department of the Interior,
House Committee on Appropriations, White House Office of Public Affairs,
Platts Inside Energy, U.S. Geological Survey, National Research Council
and Government Accountability Office.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted March 5, 2007.