Programs: Science and Policy
Science and Technology in Congress
On June 20, President Bush issued his second veto on the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, a bill to enhance federal support of embryonic stem cell research that follows certain ethical guidelines.
He also issued an executive order encouraging federal research on stem cells derived by alternative methods—such as research on “naturally dead” embryos. This type of research was championed by members such as Sens. Norm Coleman (R-MO) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) who sponsored a bill (S. 30) with similar provisions that passed the Senate but has yet to move in the House. Many questions remain about those alternative methods, which are in their early phases of development and are already eligible for NIH funding.
The House had passed the vetoed bill, S. 5, by a vote of 247-176. S. 5 is nearly identical to the version of the bill the House passed in January, H.R. 3, but it also includes largely symbolic language supporting alternative methods of deriving pluripotent cells, cells that could change into different body cell types. This new language did little to change minds—the difference in the vote counts of S. 5 and H.R. 3, which passed 253-174, had to do with a change in the make-up of non-voting members.
Studies released during the congressional debate also did little to change the course of events. A survey published in Science indicated that half of infertility patients would donate leftover embryos to research over other options. In another study, teams of scientists announced they had coaxed mouse skin cells into developing into pluripotent cells.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has yet to schedule a veto override vote; he pledged to wait until Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal named a Republican to replace the late Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY). Freudenthal has since named State Sen. John Barrasso to fill the seat. With all members voting, the Senate appears to be one vote shy of a veto override and pundits do not expect Barrasso’s vote to change that outcome.
Wanting to keep the issue in the spotlight, Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) responded to the veto by inserting a stem cell provision into the Senate appropriations bill that covers NIH. The bill, which the Appropriations Committee passed 26-3, would allow funding for research on lines derived before June 15, 2007. Aside from the stem cell section, the bill goes over the President’s budget, which makes it ripe for its own presidential veto.
-- Erin Heath
The Senate Judiciary Committee continued its efforts to mark up The Patent Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1145) the week that Congress returned from the July Fourth Recess, but still has work to do. Earlier in June the committee held a hearing on the bill, where the same issues by the same players that have shadowed the legislation in the House were raised. Namely, allowing a post-grant review of patents and setting a standard for calculating infringement damages brought mixed views from the high-tech and life sciences communities.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), would revamp the U.S. patent system by changing from a “first-to-invent” to a “first-to-file” approach. Proponents argue that the bill is needed in order to bring U.S. policy in line with that of most other developed nations, reduce litigation, and minimize the number of weak patents filed with the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).
The university research community, on the other hand, expressed concern that converting to a first-to-file system would limit the ability of academic researchers to publish their research results, arguing that the commercial application of a basic research discovery may take years to determine. Although the bill does include a 12-month grace period as part of its ‘prior art’ section, the university community recommends that the legislation be revised to explicitly state that information in a publication would not be treated as ‘prior art.’
The post-grant review provision in the patent reform bill, however, is one of the topics that engenders the strongest responses, pitting the life science research community against the high-tech sector. The post-grant review provision allows for petitions to be filed under four conditions—over the life of the patent—allowing a second opportunity to challenge a patent. The pharmaceutical community believes that this “second window” provision would discourage investors from supporting research and development. Kathryn Biberstein, representing the Biotechnology Industry Organization, stated in her testimony that “patents will have much less value, and investment predicated upon them will inevitably be diminished.”
Mary Doyle, general counsel for Palm, Inc., countered that a second window is critical to allow their industry to catch infringers. She explained that the innovation cycle for the high-tech community is so fast-paced and may involve thousands of various components that it presents a unique challenge, and argued that “a single review process immediately after a patent has issued, is not sufficient. [P]atent users often are unaware of an alleged infringement until the patent holder …threatens a company with court action.”
From the executive branch perspective, Jon Dudas, PTO director, reiterated his concern that the “second window” provision would increase the workload by as much as 5.3 percent, adding additional burdens to an already stretched-thin staff. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), however, countered that he did not believe that the PTO would see such an increase especially given that other provisions in the bill have been crafted to reduce the number of frivolous patent claims.
One of these provisions is the “apportionment of damages” provision that attempts to set a standard for calculating damages for patent infringement. Currently the courts have flexibility to calculate infringement awards on a case-by-case basis. The legislation would establish a standard for courts to determine damages based on the economic value of the “specific contribution over the prior art.” In other words, the court would only assess the added value of the patent claim and not allow the pre-existing value of the prior art into the calculus.
The high-tech community supports this provision and Doyle argued in her testimony that the revision would reduce the number of excessive award claims based on minor innovations to a pre-existing technology. They further claim that this will also limit the number of frivolous infringement lawsuits if the claimants believe that they will not receive as much money.
The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries counter that the rationale may work well for the incremental innovations that make up the high-tech community, but it doesn’t make economic sense to the life science sector that must invest millions of dollars over decades to see a product reach the commercial market. Biberstein showcased an innovative tool for giving insulin to a patient using an inhaler rather than the traditional needle. She argued that under the revised apportionment rule, the costs associated with the inhaler would have to be excluded as “prior art.”
However, the legislation would allow courts to award triple damages to a patent holder if it has been proved that the claimant has engaged in “willful infringement.”
In June the Senate Judiciary Committee adopted a substitute amendment to prevent multiple filings against a patent holder by the same entity during the post-grant review process. At the July mark up the committee passed a Manager’s amendment that would clarify how to calculate the value of an invention when considering damage awards, including instances where a combination of patents may be involved. An amendment offered by Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA) to increase the burden of proof language within the post-grant second window review provision, however, failed to pass.
The Senate Judiciary Committee did not favorably report the bill out of committee and plans to resume consideration of the bill in future mark ups. Trying to reach a compromise on the Senate and House versions of the patent reform bills will be difficult as both the high-tech and life science sectors each are aggressively lobbying for provisions that will benefit their bottom line.
-- Joanne Carney
On June 21 after weeks of floor debate, the Senate passed H.R. 6, the "Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007" by a 65-27 vote. The bill differs greatly from the corresponding House bill, which passed back in January. Instead of tackling the Senate bill, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced a House energy package that will be brought to the floor in July, with components drawn from 11 authorizing committees.
CAFE standards proved to be a major battleground throughout the debates as the auto industry and environmentalists lobbied lawmakers with full force. A compromise was finally reached when Senators agreed to increase the standard from the current level of 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) for cars and 22.5 mpg for light trucks to 35 miles per gallon per fleet by 2020. As part of a compromise, a separate provision to increase standards 4 percent annually was stricken and the distinction between cars and trucks was also abandoned.
The bill mandates the use of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022, a more than seven-fold increase from 2006 levels. In response to concerns about environmental and economic effects of corn-derived ethanol (see AAAS Biofuels Policy Brief for additional information), 21 billion gallons of this standard must be met with "advanced" biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol. However, a Renewable Portfolio Standard proposal to require utilities to produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020 offered by Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) did not survive. Senators protesting the provision noted that not all regions of the country have enough renewable resources (e.g. hydro, solar, wind) to meet the requirement.
The bill includes provisions to improve household appliance and lighting efficiency standards and to increase the use of efficient lighting in public buildings. The measure also gives the federal government authority to investigate oil industry market manipulation and outlaws "unconscionably excessive" price gouging for oil products.
Two amendments offered by Senators Jim Bunning (R-KY) and Jon Tester (D-MT) to fund coal-to-liquid technology (see AAAS Coal-to-Liquid Fuels Policy Brief for additional information) and increase its production were refused; Democrats were determined to keep a fuel that, they say, will emit more carbon dioxide than conventional gasoline out of the package. However, measures to increase funding for carbon capture and storage R&D were incorporated.
After a failed cloture motion to limit debate on the legislation, the Senate did not include language from a tax package prepared by the Finance Committee, though it may be inserted when the bill goes to conference. The tax package, worth $32.2 billion, would create incentives and subsidies for conservation and alternative energy, including clean-coal technologies, carbon capture and storage, cellulosic ethanol, and wind power. These programs would be funded by raising taxes and eliminating tax breaks from the oil industry. Many opposing the tax package said it would raise the cost of oil and gas production at a time when they are already unmanageable.
Across the Capitol, the House has been busy hammering out its own comprehensive energy package. On June 28, Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) unveiled the chamber’s energy plan. The Speaker emphasized technology, competitiveness and innovation as the paths to reducing the impacts of global warming and to creating more jobs. The energy bundle includes provisions coming out of 11 authorizing committees, including Science and Technology, Transportation and Infrastructure, Natural Resources, and Energy and Commerce; the debates in committee portend the battles that loom before the House when it takes up the package. Several contentious provisions such as CAFE standards, coal-to-liquid technology, and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) have been set aside to be tackled in September when the House takes up broad global warming legislation, but may be addressed in a House-Senate conference report.
A major debate spanned weeks in the House Energy and Commerce Committee where members agonized over CAFE Standards, coal-to-liquids, and RPS until Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) decided to drop the topics until the fall. The final version of the six committee prints package made no mention of CAFE standards and concentrates on energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable fuel-powered transportation. The legislation promotes plug-in-hybrids and flex-fuel vehicles. Democrats resisted an amendment by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) designed to increase coal-to-liquid fuels production.
Unexpected controversy arose when the Committee addressed lighting provisions championed by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI). Several members on the minority side expressed concerns with the mercury content of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). Ultimately, the committee voted to ban the use of incandescent light bulbs within five years and mandated tough lighting standards. More stringent housing, commercial building, and appliance efficiency standards were also adopted.
The Natural Resources Committee clashed over the Energy Reform and Revitalization Act of 2007 (H.R. 2337) in early June, approving language on June 13 after three tumultuous markup sessions. From its inception, the bill provoked serious dissatisfaction from the minority, majority, and the White House as it attempted to dramatically reform domestic oil and natural gas production, promote clean coal, and regulate the wind energy industry. Republicans and the Bush Administration argued that this bill would raise gas prices, while many Democrats believed the bill would hamper the wind industry’s development.
After beating back amendments attempting to eliminate titles one and two (those dealing with oil and gas production and wind energy), Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) compromised on the more controversial issues and the committee passed the bill, 26-22. The revamped legislation sets a 30 day deadline for Bureau of Land Management responses on permits and allows funds to go to coal-to-liquids and carbon capture and storage technology. It no longer repeals all exemptions from environmental reviews; rather, the bill requires exemptions to comply with guidelines set by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. An amendment offered by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) retracts the bill’s initial regulations on wind energy production and establishes an advisory committee to recommend better siting and monitoring of wind farms. The bill also includes language promoting ocean and wave energy and solar power production.
The bill contains provisions to address the impacts of climate change on wildlife and oceans. The Act directs the Interior Secretary to establish a national strategy for assisting wildlife populations impacted by global warming, including consideration and integration of adaptation strategies in the planning and management of federal lands. It also directs the Secretary of Commerce to draft a national strategy to address climate impacts on ocean and coastal ecosystems, and authorizes financial and technical assistance and training to coastal states so that they can implement plans to reduce such impacts. It also establishes a National Integrated Coastal Ocean Observation System to improve the ability to document and predict climate change’s effects on oceans.
The House energy package will contain a tax bill (H.R. 2776) from the Ways and Means Committee that revokes $16 billion worth of subsidies and loopholes for the oil and gas industries. The revenues will be diverted toward investments for renewable, energy efficiency, and alternative-fuel vehicles.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee contributed to the package with H.R. 2701, which encourages energy efficiency, alternative-fuel transportation and establishes a Center for Climate Change and Environment within the Department of Transportation.
The House energy behemoth also includes seven bills passed in the Science and Technology Committee that authorize funds for carbon capture and storage feasibility studies (H.R. 1933), encourage biofuels R&D (H.R. 2773), encourage research development, demonstration, and commercial application of geothermal (H.R. 2304) and marine renewable energy (H.R. 2313), and increase solar power R&D programs (H.R. 2774). In addition, the package contains HR 906, The Global Change Research and Data Management Act of 2007, which would reorient the federal climate change research program.
Also included is H.R. 364, a bill creating a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) within the Department of Energy (DOE), to be modeled after the Department of Defense's similarly named agency, DARPA. ARPA-E, funded at $4.9 billion over 5 years, will support collaborative, targeted, high-risk, high pay-off research to accelerate the innovation cycle for transformational energy technologies. The Senate included ARPA-E in its competitiveness package, "America COMPETES" (S.761), which passed the Senate in April.
Though these bills are considered energy bills and debates on climate change legislation are still to come, their emphasis on renewable and alternative fuels and energy efficiency illustrates the areas in which concerns about mitigating climate change overlap with energy security. Measures that address only one of these concerns appear to face even tougher battles to move forward.
-- Lina Karaoglanova and Kasey White
Biologics Bill Moves Ahead
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed the “Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act” (S. 1695) on June 27. Under the legislation, brand-name biologics will have a 12-year exclusivity period in which generic competition is prohibited. After that time period, the FDA will decide whether a generic biologic is sufficiently interchangeable with a brand-name version on a case-by-case basis, with generic biologics companies paying a user fee to have their applications reviewed by the FDA.
Debates on generic biologics have focused on both scientific and intellectual property issues. Biologics are complex drugs that are derived from a variety of natural sources (human, animal, or microorganism). Unlike common small-molecule pharmaceuticals, biologics have a high molecular complexity that may result in sensitivity to changes during the manufacturing process and subsequent negative impacts to humans. Small changes between biologics can cause a biologic to interfere with life-sustaining proteins or cause a patient’s immune system to reject the drug, leading many to believe that the potential risks of biologic drugs make blanket substitution dangerous. Others advocate the need for an abbreviated process to allow generic biologics to enter the commercial market.
While the 1984 Hatch-Waxman Act provides a streamlined path for small-molecule generics to reach the market after pioneer drug patents expire, there is no such abbreviated process for the approval of generic biologics, also known as biosimilars or follow-on biologics.
The linkage between patents litigation and the FDA approval process was one issue debated by panelists at an American Enterprise Institute conference on June 11. While some stakeholders such as Bruce Downey of the generic pharmaceutical company Barr Laboratories recommends solving intellectual property disputes early so as to avoid having companies launch products at the risk of losing a patent case, others such as Ajaz Hussain of Novartis Pharmaceuticals favor decoupling patent litigation from the FDA approval process.
Data exclusivity is another concern. Generic manufacturers feel that U.S. patent law is broad enough that the data exclusivity period for brand-name biologics need not go beyond five years, but groups such as the Biotechnology Industry Organization are strongly in favor of lengthened data exclusivity periods, pointing out that the breakeven lifetime for a biotech product is about 12 to 16 years. Proponents of lengthened exclusivity also argue that the value of patents is diminished when it comes to biologics, because they can be structurally different yet rely on much of the same research. They say that in order to provide an incentive to innovate, data exclusivity is necessary to make up for a “murky” system in which there is high incentive to challenge a patent. The Senate HELP Committee approved this lengthened exclusivity in its legislation.
Another data protection issue, trade secrets, has come up because the FDA is considering looking at companies’ production level data to determine how they developed their biologics. The FDA could then judge the generic counterpart against the original biologic to test for comparability; if a generic biologic is similar to the original product in the process by which it was created, it can be assumed that it is not likely to pose a different set of side effects. Some companies, including those that have no stake in the biologics issue, fear for the future safety of their trade secrets if such a precedent is set in this case. Others like Downey of Barr Laboratories insist FDA specialists should be able to look at trade secrets as long as they don’t share the material, but companies manufacturing brand-name biologics are concerned the FDA will guide other companies in creating approvable generics with the trade secrets it gathers.
The current approval process and data protection practices create an interesting situation in which the closer someone who is creating a biologic gets to the pioneer product, the easier it is to gain FDA approval and the harder it is to escape charges of patent infringement.
While economists expect savings to be less than the high estimates that sparked interest in creating an abbreviated approval process for generic biologics several months ago, they still think federal savings will be significant, with one source – Dan Mendelson of Avalere Health – citing savings of $3.6 billion over 10 years.
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-MA) would like the legislation to be attached to the Senate’s conference report for the Prescription Drug User Fee Amendments of 2007 (S.1082), which recently passed the full House.
The House, however, is divided on the issue of including the Senate’s bill in conference. While some in the House Energy and Commerce Committee such as Health Subcommittee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) would be willing to include the bill, explaining that a placeholder left by the Senate in the FDA bill allows them to insert this language, others including Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) plan to move cautiously, ensuring that generic biologic legislation is not rushed. Dingell said he has not decided whether to include generic biologics in conference, which is expected to begin almost immediately, or address it later.
Despite the opposing viewpoints on generic biologics, observers expect Congress to pass legislation before the 2008 election.
-- Vinu Ilakkuvan
- Nuclear Weapons: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (RL 33548)
This report lays out the history of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the nation’s nuclear testing policy. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the United States conducted 1,030 nuclear tests, more than any other nation. The United States and Russia have held “subcritical experiments” to study plutonium behavior under explosive-generated pressures. The countries have claimed that these tests do not violate the CTBT because they cannot generate a self-sustaining chain reaction. In 1991 the Senate rejected the CTBT treaty and the Administration continues to oppose it. The report explains that the Congress currently addresses nuclear weapon issues in the National Defense Authorization Act and the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act.
- The International Space Station and the Space Shuttle (RL 33468)
This report includes a detailed history of the creation of the International Space Station (ISS) program (established in 1993) and the Space Shuttle. The Space Shuttle program is set to retire in 2010, as the U.S. begins space exploration to the Moon and beyond as part of its “Vision for Space Exploration.” The report outlines recent Congressional action toward funding ISS, the Space Shuttle, and the “Vision for Space Exploration” in FY 2007.
- Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Education: Status and Issues (Order Code 98-871 STM)
This report explains the concerns Congress has expressed over the ability of the American workforce to meet the demands of global competitiveness. Traditionally, a strong science and engineering workforce has fueled an innovative economy. Based on recent reports, American students are underperforming in the math, science, and engineering fields, far below most industrial nations. The report notes that studies have pointed to a failing school system and unqualified teachers as the key reasons for disinterested and unprepared students. The report also highlights the 110th Congress’ actions to remedy this problem, including several competitiveness bills such as H.R. 363 and S.761.
- National Science Foundation: Major Research Equipment and Facility Construction (RS21267)
This report underscores the concerns raised by some in the scientific community that question the adequacy of the planning and management of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) facilities and equipment. The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) division of NSF supports the foundation’s acquisition and construction of major research facilities and equipment such as telescopes, earth simulators, astronomical observatories, and mobile research platforms. The report explains that Congress has begun to address these concerns with the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 1867), a bill that calls for an evaluation of NSF’s MREFC policies and management of major operations.
- Foreign Science and Engineering Presence in U.S. Institutions and the Labor Force (Order Code 97-746)
This report examines current imbalance between increased foreign students in the U.S. earning doctoral degrees in the math, science, and engineering fields and declining numbers of U.S. citizens who choose to pursue careers in those fields. The report quotes NSF’s statistical data that show the foreign student population in 2005 earned approximately 34.7% of the doctorate degrees in the sciences and about 63.1% of the doctorate degrees in engineering. The report notes that the key concern is not so much how many foreign students study in the U.S. , but rather, the dwindling number of natives competing with them. This report also outlines relevant immigration legislation in the 110th Congress that addresses H-1B visas and foreign students.
- Biofuels: DOE Lacks a Strategic Approach to Coordinate Increasing Production with Infrastructure Development and Vehicle Needs (GAO-07-713)
This report examines the Department of Energy’s (DOE) progress on developing a strategic plan to facilitate nationwide biofuel production and infrastructure. The GAO notes that the current means of transporting biofuels via rail is inefficient and limited and only 1 percent of fueling stations nationwide make E85 available to consumers. The GAO suggests that the limited supply of ethanol drives the cost of investing in infrastructure, hindering its expansion. In addition, the report notes that the small number of flex-fuel vehicles currently on the road also reduces demand for infrastructure expansion, though this may be changing with new policies and changes in the auto-industry. The GAO finds that the DOE has not produced an adequate, comprehensive, national plan to increase production and expand infrastructure. Additionally, the DOE has not assessed the impact of $2.7 billion worth of biofuels production tax breaks on the industry. The GAO suggests that the DOE collaborate with stakeholders to craft a biofuel-expansion strategic plan and develop a review system to assess the usefulness of tax breaks.
- Department of Homeland Security: Science and Technology Directorate's Expenditure Plan (GAO-07-868)
This report examines financial reporting difficulties experienced by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). S&T currently allocates $838 million annually to fund research, development, acquisition and operations to produce civilian countermeasures to terrorism. The GAO investigation found that S&T expenditure plan did not satisfy the provisions in the Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2007 because S&T did not properly report administrative and management data. The report also concludes that at times, S&T operations did not fully comply with the GAO’s Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government.
- Avian Influenza: USDA Has Taken Important Steps to Prepare for Outbreaks, but Better Planning Could Improve Response (GAO-07-652)
This report explains the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) actions to prepare for Avian Influenza (AI), including developing response plans, statutes, regulations, and research and development programs. The USDA has developed methods to prevent infected poultry and products from entering the country, several surveillance programs to detect AI, and a National Veterinary Stockpile. The department has also begun exercises to perfect response plans. However, the GAO concludes that the USDA has failed to properly define the capabilities required for rapid action; as a result state plans often lack rapid action components. There are also a number of unresolved issues; for example, the USDA has not calculated the adequate amount of antiviral medication necessary to quell an outbreak.
- Influenza Pandemic: Efforts to Forestall Onset Are Under Way; Identifying Countries at Greatest Risk Entails Challenges (GAO-07-604)
In this report, the GAO describes U.S. and international actions to assess Avian Influenza (AI) risk to humans and avert a pandemic. The GAO notes that information gaps are one of the chief handicaps of risk assessments and preparations, as global risk comparisons are often based on questionnaires and other such tools provided by USAID, the United Nations, and the World Bank. The GAO concludes that additional resources need to be invested in filling these knowledge gaps and improving assessments. The report also outlines the U.S. role in addressing the international risk, including leadership roles the U.S. has taken and funds it has contributed.
- Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites: Restructuring Is Under Way, but Challenges and Risks Remain (GAO-07-910T)
This report describes NASA and NOAA’s progress on the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) and hurdles they have yet to overcome. NPOESS has begun to restructure itself with some success, such as implementing a new management structure that increases oversight. However, certain deadlines have not been reached due to the complications that arise when three agencies must approve program actions. The program has also faces obstacles with staffing plans, increasing delays as crucial positions have yet to be filled. Development and testing of major NPOESS segments has also been slowed as the program experiences technical problems and delays.
- Plasma Science: Advancing Knowledge in the National Interest (ISBN-10: 0-309-10939-6)
This report concludes that the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science should promote plasma research, which could result in breakthroughs in national security and energy production. The report identifies four areas of Plasma science for government investment: fundamental low-temperature plasma science, discovery-driven high-energy density plasma science, intermediate-level plasma science, and cross-cutting plasma science. The report notes that the current plasma research environment is poorly linked from agency to agency and recommends that the government develop a nationwide, coherent, inter-agency plasma research effort led by the DOE’s Office of Science.
- Sediment Dredging at Superfund Megasites: Assessing the Effectiveness (ISBN-10: 0-309-10973-6)
This report evaluates the merit of dredging Superfund sites in order to remove contaminants that may be hazardous to humans and the environment. While dredging removes contaminants, it can also cause trapped contaminants to resurface, making previously innocuous contaminants harmful again. The report concludes that dredging is one of the few options currently available for clean-ups and therefore should be considered. However, the report also suggests that dredging should be based on long-term risk assessments and be accompanied by monitoring and follow-up reviews.
- Coal: Research and Development to Support National Energy Policy (ISBN-10: 0-309-11018-1)
This study evaluates federal funding for coal production and concludes that government funding for coal research and development (R&D) must be increased in order to improve the efficiency and environmental safety of coal extraction and utilization. In addition, more resources should be devoted to appraising the country’s coal reserves to provide policymakers with the most accurate information available for planning purposes. The authors suggest increasing funding by $144 million annually across a variety of areas to accommodate these new goals, including innovation in coal production technologies. Additionally, research into improved mine worker safety and environmental management should be boosted.
- EPA Models Should Undergo 'Life-Cycle' Evaluation (ISBN-10: 0-309-11000-9)
This study suggests that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) computer models (used for regulatory purposes) should be routinely evaluated to reduce inaccuracies resulting from assumption errors, data gaps, and technical limitations. Evaluations should consider peer review, clear communication of uncertainties, and stakeholder participation throughout model life-cycles. The report also noted that modeling and data collection are often disconnected and recommends that the agency make an effort to develop an interdependent process encouraging modelers and data collectors to work more closely. The report also recommends conducting a retrospective study of previous regulatory models to determine opportunities to improve modeling.
- Report Calls for New Approach to Toxicity Testing (ISBN-10: 0-309-10988-4)
This report explains that recent scientific advances may alter toxicity testing by eliminating animal studies and using in vitro methods that utilize cells or cellular components. The report outlines the various approaches currently being explored and how they will produce more relevant results for human risk assessments. The report recommends certain approaches that can hasten toxicity testing procedures and reduce the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overburdened testing process. The authors suggest increasing resources devoted to multidisciplinary research in these areas and establishing an institution to shepherd these new methods.
- Electric Power Research Institute
Assessment of Waterpower Potential and Development
This report notes that appropriate policy measures, such as the Energy Policy Act of 2005, can dramatically improve the prospects of the waterpower industry and encourages further favorable actions in Congress. The report promotes more economic investments and incentives to stimulate further technological advancements. This report outlines the waterpower technologies currently available and those on the horizon and how they can contribute to the country’s energy resources. Additionally, the report suggests increasing research, development, deployment, and demonstration efforts and identifies appropriate opportunities for such initiatives.
- Business-Higher Education Forum
An American Imperative: Transforming the Recruitment, Retention and Renewal of Our Nation's Mathematics and Science Teaching Workforce
This report calls for a transformation of the U.S. education system to reinvigorate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and increase student achievement in the STEM fields. The report concludes that a transformation of the education system depends on teacher quality and teacher recruitments. Currently, there is a shortage of qualified teachers. The report suggests focusing on teacher recruitment, retention, and renewal to increase the numbers of qualified teachers, keep them in the school system, and keep them updated in the subject matter. Additionally, the report suggests a coordinated effort that involves all the stakeholders: federal government, state government, local school districts, higher education institutions, and industry.
- National Resources Defense Council
Driving It Home: Choosing the Right Path for Fueling North America's Transportation Future
This report describes the environmental damage that results from oil extraction from liquid coal, oil shale, and tar sands. It also studies the possible risks investors may face when investing in ventures that explore these processes. The report points out that these oil producing ventures are becoming more costly with time as resources diminish and become harder to acquire. The report provides recommendations for cleaner alternatives to conventional oil such as the establishment of a low carbon fuel standard and improving vehicle fuel economy standards. The report also calls for an increase in the use of biofuels like cellulosic ethanol.
- Energy Information Administration
Impacts of a 15-percent Renewable Portfolio Standard
This report analyzes a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requiring that 15 percent of U.S. electricity sales be derived from qualifying renewable energy resources. The EIA concludes that the projected market value of renewable energy credits is 1.9 cents per kilowatt hour between 2020 and 2030. The report also finds that the RPS results in a large increase in biomass generation and significant increases in wind and photovoltaic generation. The RPS would also reduce CO2 emissions by 222 million metric tons (6.7 percent) in 2030. In addition, electricity prices rise by 0.9 percent over the 2005 to 2030 while the demand for coal and natural gas is reduced.
AAAS Asks President to Sign the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act
AAAS CEO Alan Leshner sent a letter to President Bush asking him to reconsider his pledge to veto the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 (S. 5), which passed the House 247 - 176. AAAS then issued a press statement following the veto expressing disappointment in the President’s decision.
This paper examines the effect of variations in solar activity on the temperature of the Earth. The scientists found that there is considerable evidence for solar influence on the Earth’s pre-industrial climate and that the Sun may well have been a factor in post-industrial climate change in the first half of the last century. However, their results show that over the past 20 years, all the trends in the Sun that could have had an influence on the Earth’s climate have been in the opposite direction to that required to explain the observed rise in global mean temperatures.
Lockwood, Mike and Claus Frohlich, "Recent oppositely directed trends in solar
climate forcings and the global mean surface air temperature," The Proceedings of the Royal Society A, doi:10.1098/rspa.2007.1880.