Programs: Science and Policy
Science and Technology in Congress
On August 9th, President Bush signed the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 2272) into law at a White House ceremony that included Jack Marburger, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM). A week prior the conference report passed the House by an overwhelming vote of 367-57, followed shortly by a unanimous consent vote in the Senate.
Its passage into law culminates two years of advocacy by the scientific, industrial and academic communities sparked by the release of the National Academies’ report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm. Though broad bipartisan support existed for the concept of increasing American competitiveness, extensive negotiations were needed between the House and Senate over what programs and spending levels would ultimately be included in the final 470-page conference report.
The America COMPETES Act provides a total of $33.6 billion in new authorized spending levels ($44.3 billion in total) for a host of research and education programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE), National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Department of Education.
It puts NSF and NIST on a doubling track by authorizing $22.1 billion and $2.65 billion, respectively, for research over three years. It also provides DOE’s Office of Science with $5.8 billion for fiscal year 2010 to complete a doubling track that was authorized as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
In addition to other programs to improve teacher training and recruiting, the legislation would ramp up the NSF Noyce Scholarships to students studying in science, mathematics and engineering fields that plan to teach after graduation. It greatly expands DOE’s role in science education by allowing it to create Centers of Excellence in STEM education that link a public secondary school to a DOE lab.
It would replace the Advanced Technology Program at the Department of Commerce with the Technology Innovation Program ($100 million) with the primary goal of funding high-risk, high-reward technology development projects.
Finally, the new law authorizes DOE to establish an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) to conduct high-risk energy research. Funded at $300 million in FY 2008, the new agency is to be housed outside of DOE’s Office of Science ostensibly to ensure that it does not rob from the Office of Science’s budget.
While passage of the America COMPETES Act is a boon to the research community that has long sought for recognition of its importance to innovation, the legislation is still simply an authorizing bill and it is ultimately up to the appropriators to ensure that investments in R&D budgets actually come to fruition.
-- Joanne CarneyBACK TO TOP
Government regulation of nanoscale particles has recently come under scrutiny, leading to action on Capitol Hill and by federal agencies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a public meeting on August 2nd to discuss and obtain feedback the agency’s draft plan for addressing the tiny science. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a nanotechnology task force report that recommends the agency improve its scientific knowledge of nanoscience in order to improve its oversight and regulation. Meanwhile, in Congress, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) introduced legislation encouraging nanotechnology research and commercialization.
The pubic meeting addressed the EPA’s newly established Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program, which provides a regulatory framework for nanotechnology under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In a Federal Register notice open to public comment, the agency announced that its general approach to nanoscale particles in terms of TSCA will be to consider nanoscale substances “based on molecular identity, rather than focus on physical attributes such as particle size,” i.e. not differentiate between nano and regular materials for the purpose of regulation.
This decision has become a point of serious dispute for stakeholders, many of whom attended the meeting to express their views. Environmentalists and public health advocates argued that the EPA’s decision ignores the latest science, which shows that chemicals act differently at the nanoscale. Industry representatives appeared to be content with the EPA’s announcement and assured the public that companies are taking responsible safety precautions.
The draft plan also calls for EPA to voluntarily collect relevant data on existing nanoscale materials and risk management practices. Industry representatives commended the EPA for deciding to make the program voluntary and emphasized the benefit of flexible deadlines to small businesses. Environmentalists and public health advocates countered that EPA’s strategy is inadequate and promotes agency inaction because it does not set deadlines for data collection or EPA reporting. Environmental Defense suggested a three month deadline for data collection, after which the EPA would release a report and set guidelines. While some attendees suggested updating TSCA based on new scientific understanding of chemical behavior at the nanoscale, others urged against changing TSCA, as it may “open Pandora’s Box.”
The public comment period will remain open until September 12, 2007.
The FDA, meanwhile, recently released a report from its Nanotechnology Task Force, which formed last year to assess how the agency should regulate products that utilize nanomaterials. Nanotechnology, the report says, can impact nearly all categories of products touched by the FDA, and therefore the agency needs more risk research as well as tools and staff that can adequately assess product safety.
The report also calls for Industry to play a role, and the Task Force plans to offer future guidance to industry on what types of information the agency needs to assess the risks and benefits of products that use nanotechnology.
What the Task Force does not recommend is new labeling procedures. Food, drugs, medical devices and cosmetics that contain nanoparticles would not necessarily require special labels but should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, according to the report.
Watchdog groups gave the release mixed reviews. Officials with the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies called the report a “step forward,” but the International Center for Technology Assessment, which previously filed a legal petition calling on the FDA to take action on nanoproducts, criticized the report for “dismiss[ing] potential oversight actions.”
Over on Capitol Hill, Rep. Honda introduced the Nanotechnology Advancement and New Opportunities Act (H.R.3235) on July 31st. The bill emphasizes commercialization of nanotechnology, establishing public-private investment partnerships, and creating tax credits to spur investment in the field. The bill also establishes a federal nanotechnology research plan that focuses research on energy, environment, homeland security and health. The bill does not appear to focus on the possible risks of nanoscale particles to human health or the environment.
-- Lina Karaoglanova and Erin Heath
After extending the session into the weekend, House members tackled the energy debate on Saturday, August 4th, passing the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act (H.R.3221) and the highly contested Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act (H.R. 2776). H.R. 3221, the broader energy package promised by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, includes a renewable electricity standard but passes on CAFE standards. H.R. 2776, a $16 billion bill that has received a pack of criticism from Republicans and oil-district Democrats, increases tax incentives for renewables by reducing existing incentives for the oil and gas industries. The two bills were rolled into one after their passage under the rule for floor debate.
The President has promised to veto the bills, noting that they “are not serious attempts to increase our energy security or address high energy costs.” The White House also cited duplicative measures, reduction in domestic oil and gas production, and divergence from the President’s “Twenty in Ten” Initiative as reasons for dissatisfaction.
The House managed to push the Speaker’s broad energy bill through with a vote of 241 to 172. The legislation’s star provision is the renewable electricity standard, which mandates utilities produce 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020. Utilities will be allowed to meet some of that requirement with energy efficiency measures. This is a watered-down version of the original amendment offered by Reps. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tom Platts (R-PA), which mandated that utilities produce 20 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2020. Lawmakers also trimmed the 2010 requirement to 2.75 percent, down from 3.75 percent. The leadership thinned out the renewable electricity standard after many Members expressed concerns over the initial provision, noting that it may be difficult for some states with limited renewable sources (such as wind or biomass) to meet the requirement. The mandate does not apply to rural electric cooperatives and municipalities. In addition to many other provisions, the House approved 22 amendments to the bill, including several that increase energy efficiency and improve weatherization assistance.
The House also managed to squeeze through H.R.2776, a Ways and Means bill intentionally kept separate from the broader energy package because of its doubtful acceptance on the House floor. The tax legislation ran into staunch opposition from the White House, Republicans and oil-state Democrats immediately after being introduced due to its downsizing of existing tax incentives for the oil and gas industries to pay for renewable energy sources. A similar Senate package failed last month, but the House bill passed 221 to 189 with 11 democrats defecting and 9 republicans voting yes.
The conference between the House and Senate energy bills will be a challenge, as the two differ in key provisions. The debate over the inclusion CAFE standards, which raged in the House for months, was finally put to rest when H.R. 3221 passed without a CAFE provision; however, CAFE standards will likely be injected into the language when the bill goes to conference, as they are included in the Senate energy package. The House bill excludes provisions to increase ethanol and alternative fuel production, provisions covered in the Senate version, while the Senate was unable to include a renewable fuel standard in its bill.
-- Lina Karaoglanova
House Panel Considers Bayh-Dole Act
On July 17 the House Science and Technology Committee’s Technology and Innovation Subcommittee held a hearing assessing the 27-year-old Bayh-Dole Act—formally PL 96-517, Amendments to the Patent and Trademark Act of 1980—that enables universities to retain title to inventions made through federally-funded research.
The five witnesses, all with backgrounds in universities and industry, testified to the positive impact of the legislation but acknowledged some concerns. Specifically, witnesses noted that universities focus too much on rare “home-run” patents, and that IP considerations have made private-sector collaborations with universities increasingly difficult and time-consuming, leading businesses to seek out more partnerships with foreign universities. However, all witnesses seemed to prefer institutional or administrative reforms over legislative changes.
The subcommittee plans to further explore this topic, as well as the Stevenson-Wydler Act, which governs collaborations between industry and federal laboratories, in future hearings.
-- Erin Heath
Competitive Climate Change Legislation
Several bills have been added to the mix of climate change legislation under consideration in the Senate that attempt to alleviate concerns about the potential impact of addressing climate change on U.S. competitiveness. These tactics range from a cap on the price of carbon to international trade provisions to the creation of a carbon market oversight board.
Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) released their long-awaited bill, the Low Carbon Economy Act of 2007 (S. 1766) on July 11. In contrast with an earlier draft that circulated widely, this new version features a cap-and-trade system with reduction targets (2006 levels by 2020 and 1990 levels by 2030) that focus on greenhouse gas emission levels rather than reductions in energy intensity (a ratio of emissions to GDP). The Bingaman/Specter bill encourages development and deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology with a system of bonus emissions credits for companies that implement CCS technology.
S. 1766 contains provisions on international engagement meant to assuage critics of climate policies that do not include growing emitters such as China and India. The bill requires that the United States attempt to negotiate an agreement with other nations to take “comparable action” to address climate change. Beginning in 2020, the bill allows the President to require importers from countries that are not taking action to submit emission allowances for certain high-carbon products (e.g., cement). Prices for these “international reserve allowances,” which constitute a separate pool from domestic allowances, would be equal to those for domestic allowances, fulfilling a key tenant of trade law that tariffs be applied equally to domestic and foreign products.
The bill also attempts to limit costs by incorporating a cap on the price of emissions, referenced in the bill as a Technology Accelerator Payment but known to many as a safety valve. The price starts at $12/ton of carbon and rises at a rate of 5 percent above inflation annually. A safety valve has been embraced by many in industry for providing price certainty, but criticized by economists and environmentalist who feel it interferes with the power of the market and may also prohibit linkages with other international trading schemes.
Senators John Warner (R-VA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) took a different tactic to limit the costs of climate change legislation in a proposal Senator Warner called “an emergency off ramp.” Their bill, Containing and Managing Climate Change Costs Efficiently Act (S. 1874), would create a Carbon Market Efficiency Board, modeled on the Federal Reserve Board, to regulate the market for carbon allowances. When prices are sustained above a certain threshold, the Board could effectively reduce prices by borrowing credits from future years to expand the number of carbon permits available. The bill does not contain targets or timetables for greenhouse gas reductions, as sponsors intended for the proposal to be incorporated into a broader cap-and-trade proposal.
Senator Warner, Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection, ensured the carbon market board provision was included in at least one bill when he and Subcommittee Chair Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) incorporated it into the draft climate bill that they will officially introduce this fall, America's Climate Security Act. It includes provisions to establish a Carbon Market Efficiency Board, as well as provisions from the Bingaman/Specter bill to encourage other countries to address climate change. The draft calls for cuts in greenhouse emission of 70 percent over 2005 levels by 2050. Initially, 24 percent of the credits will be auctioned, with that amount rising to 52 percent in 2035. The auction would be run by a new Climate Change Credit Corporation and the proceeds used to promote new technology, encourage carbon capture and storage, mitigate the effects of climate change on wildlife and oceans, and provide relief measures for poor nations.
Lieberman and Warner have requested comments on the draft and plan to introduce the bill, as well as bring it to a vote in their subcommittee, after the August recess. The inclusion of measures that aim to limit the economic effect of the legislation and ensure that the United States will not be at a competitive disadvantage may bring support from those who have opposed climate change legislation in the past, though the many competing proposals already introduced will also play into the mix as the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee moves ahead in the fall.
A legislative tracker and climate change comparison chart are available to follow these bills on the AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Congress website.
When Congress returns from its August recess, it will tackle reauthorization of the 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. NCLB brought an unprecedented degree of federal involvement in education through its testing and assessment requirements, but with reauthorization pending in Congress, there is disagreement as to whether this legislation had a positive effect.
Some of the many concerns that have been raised regarding NCLB were discussed at an American Enterprise Institute panel on July 16 where researchers from the University of Chicago presented a new study entitled “Left Behind by Design: Proficiency Counts and Test-Based Accountability.”
The report compares test-scores of students in Chicago public schools before and after NCLB implementation, concluding that using a proficiency count (that is, counting the number of students that meet proficiency standards) shifts focus to children that are almost, but not quite, at passing level since this is the range with the “biggest bang for the buck.” The authors of the study argue that using proficiency standards directs attention away from the truly disadvantaged and discourages teachers from working in disadvantaged areas.
The report presents some alternatives to proficiency counts including index systems, which are analogous to awarding partial credit, or utilizing growth models that would allow schools to measure incremental improvements over time. The authors, Drs. Derek Neal and Diane Schanzenbach, admit these alternatives are more difficult to implement, but maintain the simplicity of a proficiency count does not make it the best option.
They propose using teacher “handicaps” to account for the fact that teachers teach students with different backgrounds, language abilities, prior achievements, etc. Neal and Schanzenbach insist that without implementing such measures, it is unfair to rank teachers and base incentives upon ranking because the system fails to account for factors beyond teachers’ control.
Others on the AEI panel did not agree with the report. Some, including Doug Mesecar of the Department of Education, pointed out that NCLB is only one reform driver – the federal government is only an 8% investor in education. Those on this side of the issue argue that NCLB was intended to put a laser-like focus in getting all students up to grade level and place significance on data and trends. NCLB has resulted in much more data on the subject, and studies should be used to improve the system. He argued that the focus needs to be placed on making fundamental changes in teaching practices and school organization.
Others such as AEI scholar Charles Murray take issue with the idea of having all students achieve a set standard. They say that asking students to perform to standards they cannot achieve shows indifference to their ability. Others insist that achieving grade-level standards is not an unreasonable expectation, but rather something everyone can achieve, although it make take some more effort than others.
These varying opinions regarding the practicality of bringing all students to a set of standards, what the fundamental changes necessary to improve students’ education are, and how best to measure student achievement are all reflected in the numerous bills proposing changes to NCLB.
The All Students Can Achieve Act of 2007 (ASCA), introduced by Senators Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Norm Coleman (R-MN) in mid-July, focuses on improving teacher effectiveness and education standards. ASCA’s provisions include utilizing growth models to assess effectiveness. The bill also aims to better align curriculums of schools across the nation and close the achievement gap by providing appropriate resources.
When Congress returns from the August recess, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) will introduce his plan to reauthorize NCLB. At a press event before the recess he outlined a number of provisions that are expected to make up the legislation including creating incentives for states to establish standards that focus on meeting the 21st century workforce needs. In addition, he expects to address other methods for measuring student and school achievement (e.g., growth models), merit pay for teachers and administrators, and more funding to implement the law's requirements.
Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is also expected to shepherd a reauthorization bill this fall, although no details have been forthcoming as of yet.
As Congress slowly makes headway on measures to combat climate change, many states and cities are taking action of their own. California has long led the way on environmental issues and climate change is no exception. In 2002, California passed legislation that requires vehicles sold in the state after 2016 to emit 30 percent less carbon dioxide than 2000 models. But the standards have not yet been implemented because the state is still waiting for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision on the proposal.
Eleven other states have indicated that they will adopt California’s automobile standard if it is approved, illustrating the larger effect of the proposal and the growing influence of state policies to address climate change. Many automakers, as well as some industry leaders, have said that a patchwork of rules across states will be difficult and costly to implement, while states have asserted their right to mitigate climate change.
Because California’s proposed standards differ from the Clean Air Act, California must obtain a waiver from the act from the EPA before they can be implemented. All previous requests for waivers from the state have been approved by the EPA.
California submitted a petition to request the EPA waiver in December 2005. The EPA opened the petition process to public comment on April 24, 2007, shortly after the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v EPA that EPA has the authority to address climate change under the Clean Air Act. After the comment period closed in June, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson announced that a decision would not be forthcoming until December 2007, citing the need for time to examine the numerous comments received.
Many in Congress and California are attempting to expedite the process. California is moving forward with steps to sue the EPA if Johnson does not make a decision on the waiver by October of this year.
On July 31, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed legislation (S. 1785) introduced by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to force EPA to issue a decision on the California waiver within 30 days of the bill’s enactment, and no later than September 30, 2007. In a July 26 committee hearing, Senator Nelson described how his home state of Florida has developed strategies to mitigate climate change, including adopting California’s automobile standard, but cannot move forward until EPA has made a decision on the California waiver. The committee also heard from Administrator Johnson, who noted that the agency received “an unprecedented” response of 60,000 comments on the rule along with extensive scientific materials. Boxer noted that 54,000 of those were form letters supporting the rule.
On the other side of the Capitol, House Oversight and Government Reform Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) released documents showing that the U.S. Department of Transportation contacted officials in automobile production states during the comment period for the California waiver with a message that the California proposal would create "a patchwork of regulations on vehicle emissions, which would have significant effect on the light truck and car industry." Executive branch agencies are prohibited by law from lobbying, hence, Waxman intends to open an investigation into these efforts, which he called possibly illegal and the Department characterized as information dissemination.
The topic of allowing states to establish standards also arose during the House debates on its energy package. A draft proposal from the House Energy and Commerce Committee was circulated that contained provisions to retract California 's authority to regulate automobiles' greenhouse gas emissions. It was eventually dropped due to pressure from a number of California lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
The debate over state policies to address climate change is not expected to be resolved soon, as any comprehensive climate change bill that may become law would also need to be reconciled with similar programs existing across states and regions.
-- Kasey White
- Food and Agricultural Imports from China (RL34080)
This report explains that as U.S.-China trade increases and incidence of food contamination arise, Congress is forced to question whether existing U.S. food safety systems are able to adapt. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) are responsible for the overall U.S. food regulatory system, though their regulations are dissimilar. Members of Congress have expressed concern and introduced legislation to address China’s food safety problems and U.S. agencies’ inability to test contaminated food.
- Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2008 (RL34048)
This report outlines elements of the Bush Administration’s research and development (R&D) budget request: $142.7 billion for the fiscal year 2008. The report suggests that increases in the budget have been due to increases in Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) budgets. The President’s American Competitiveness Initiative is highly promoted in the R&D budget. The report predicts concerns in Congress about the decreased National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget and the declining investment in NASA’s applied research programs. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) both see record cuts in their budget requests.
- Clinical Trials Reporting and Publication (RL32832)
This report explains that Congress has a difficult balance between requiring clinical trail reporting for the good of public health and the increased burden on companies to provide this information. Currently, no law exists that requires all clinical trial results be publicly accessible, though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate certain types of trials. In some cases, federally-funded clinical trial results can only be made public through Freedom of Information Act requests. The report summarizes nine bills that have been introduced in Congress to address this public access issue.
- Environmental Protection: EPA-State Enforcement Partnership Has Improved, but EPA's Oversight Needs Further Enhancement (GAO-07-883)
This report reviews enforcement of Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulations by the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), which covers EPA’s 10 regions, and the states. EPA’s funding of regional offices has decreased by 8 percent in the last decade, forcing regional offices to cut enforcement staff by 5 percent. States have suggested that lower funding levels have decreased their ability to enforce EPA regulations. However, the report suggests that the EPA has made progress in setting priorities and enforcement planning with states through the EPA/state National Environmental Partnership System and has enhanced its oversight of state enforcement programs through the State Review Framework.
- NASA Supplier Base: Challenges Exist in Transitioning from the Space Shuttle Program to the Next Generation of Human Space Flight Systems (GAO-07-940)
This report investigates the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) supplier base management strategy as it transitions from the Space Shuttle to Constellation’s exploration activities. NASA has been preparing for the transition with various communication strategies, decision structures, and metrics for measuring progress. NASA has also pin-pointed risks associated with retiring the Shuttle and the supplier base that will be needed to alleviate gaps in future exploration. The report concludes that NASA’s new decision-making structure has been unable to processes supplier-related decisions quickly enough, leading the GAO to predict that the process will be overwhelmed post-Shuttle retirement, when more supplier-related decisions will need to be made.
- NASA: Progress Made on Strategic Human Capital Management, but Future Program Challenges Remain (GAO-07-1004)
This report examines NASA's progress building its human capital resources as the agency transitions from the Space Shuttle era into a new human space flight era. The report concludes that NASA’s leadership has been adequately establishing agency goals and strategy to address the human capital issue. NASA has been internally consulting centers and departments to determine the skill sets that will be most valuable in the future. NASA has asked Congress for additional flexibility in managing its human capital so that it can better prepare its workforce.
- DOE Has Improved Its Quality Assurance Program, but Whether Its Application for a NRC License Will Be High Quality Is Unclear (GAO-07-1010)
This report examines the Department of Energy’s (DOE) license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to store nuclear waste from civilian nuclear power plants at Yucca Mountain. The DOE plans to submit the application to the NRC by June 30, 2008 and decided not to consult stakeholders on much of the application because there was no legal requirement to do so. The report explains that the DOE has resolved many of the quality assurance problems and project management concerns that had been identified earlier. The report concludes that it is uncertain whether the DOE will be able to continue this progress when a new Presidency begins and administration leadership shifts.
- Vehicle Fuel Economy: Reforming Fuel Economy Standards Could Help Reduce Oil Consumption by Cars and Light Trucks, and Other Options Could Complement These Standards (GAO-07-921)
This report outlines the way the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program reduces fuel consumption and the program’s strengths and weaknesses. The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are all responsible for enforcing these standards. The report concludes that these agencies could respond quickly in implementing higher CAFE standards, and that standards based on vehicle size could maximize efficiency. The GAO suggests that CAFE standards alone are insufficient to radically reduce gas consumption. Other policy options include gas taxes, cap and trade, and market incentives.
- Protecting Building Occupants and Operations from Biological and Chemical Airborne Threats: A Framework for Decision Making ( ISBN-10: 0-309-10955-8)
This report investigates whether DARPA’s Immune Building Program’s recent efforts have been successful at reducing risk of biological and chemical attacks at protected federal buildings. The report examines factors, such as types of agents and activity taking place in a building, that influence the design of structures that improve protection from chemical and biological agents. The report looks at passive and active approaches to prevention; while active strategies rely on detection and identification technologies, the passive approaches depends on continuous cleaning of airways, visual agent indicators, and structural integrity of the building. The report identifies constraints on the strategic choices planners have available to them, including financial resources and building condition or type. The report recommends that building protection guidelines be realistic, based on a life-cycle cost analysis and case-by-case evaluations.
- Review of Chemical Agent Secondary Waste Disposal and Regulatory Requirements (ISBN-10: 0-309-10610-9)
This report examines the U.S. Army’s Chemical Material Agency’s (CMA) existing policies and practices regarding disposal of secondary waste that is produced by destroying the nation’s chemical weapons stockpile. The report notes that management at disposal facilities varies depending on the regional and/or state regulations where the facility is located. The report also suggests that off-site secondary waste pre-disposal-treatment requires less time than on-site treatment because the equipment used is not being shared by secondary waste treatment and agent disposal operations. The report makes a variety of recommendation, including establishing consistent criteria for risk assessments and utilizing off-site disposal of secondary waste whenever possible.
- The Limits of Organic Life in the Universe (ISBN-10: 0-309-10484-X)
This report examines the nation’s existing space exploration programs and suggests that scientists expand their investigations to life in the solar system that has a different biochemical make-up than life on Earth. The committee believes that existing approaches risk the chance of missing an alien life-form that exhibits dissimilar biochemistry by unduly narrowing the search. The report recommends that scientists explore alternative requirements for life with an emphasis on origin-of-life studies to improve human understanding of what characteristics life in space might exhibit. The report also recommended that future space missions expand their search and include instruments to measure the presence of compounds and elements that could lead a combination of life sustaining chemicals.
Food & Water Watch, the Network for New Energy Choices, and the Vermont Law School Institute for Energy and the Environment
The Rush to Ethanol: Not all Biofuels Are Created Equal
This report explores the costs of ethanol production in the U.S., noting that it has been falsely advertised as a silver bullet for the nation’s energy demands, national security, and climate change. The report suggests that ethanol, currently derived from corn, has economic and environmental consequences such as rivalry with food production, water contamination, and land destruction. It also points out that the corn industry receives the most government subsidies of any crop in the U.S. and smaller producers are unable to take advantage of these subsidies due to competition from large-scale corn-ethanol producers. The report recommends that the federal government establish sustainable guidelines for production of biofuel that ban conversion of protected lands into biofuel production and promoting cellulosic ethanol. The report suggests that life-cycle emission reductions should be considered when developing sustainable production guidelines. Finally, the report suggests that sustainability practice standards should also be applied to imports of biofuels and biofuel feedstock.
- Department of Defense
Department of Defense Chemical and Biological Defense Program
This is an annual report produced by the Department of Defense (DOD) that outlines the department’s Chemical and Biological Defense Program (CBDP) and progress it has made to further the nation’s defense against chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. The report identifies three areas in which the DOD requires Congressional support in order to continue the CBDP’s mission: secure funding for the Transformational Medical Technologies Initiative; ample long-term investment in the infrastructure to enhance DOD research, development, test and evaluation capabilities; and consistent annual funding for CBDP’s general operations. The report outlines the program’s goals and plans, and summarizes how the program has worked to meet these goals and will continue its progress.
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AAAS Thanks House for COMPETES Act Support
AAAS CEO Alan Leshner sent a letter to House members who helped craft the bipartisan COMPETES Act, thanking them for their efforts and urging passage of the bill.
A new study has found that the "language explosion" seen in toddlers may relate to the distribution of easy and complex words in a language, not some specialized part of the toddler brain becoming active. As young children begin to acquire the more than 60,000 words an average adult uses, they first learn the easiest words. But there are not that many of these, said Bob McMurray, a professor of psychology at the University of Iowa. After they have grasped basic words, toddlers begin to acquire some of the many more difficult words on a rising bell curve of word difficulty. It is believed that the vocabulary explosion takes place once toddlers have progressed to the steeply rising stretch of the bell curve.
McMurray, Bob, "Defusing the Childhood Vocabulary Explosion," Science 3 August 2007: 631.