Could Biden’s signature climate law supercharge pollution in the midwest?

Read the full story in The Guardian.

The $369bn Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was applauded by a chorus of US organizations and activists enthusiastic about the generous funding earmarked for projects designed to mitigate climate change and improve environmental health.

But some researchers and activists are raising concerns that several provisions of the new law will actually worsen a growing environmental disaster in the nation’s heartland by increasing the tide of farm-related pollution washing into waterways and groundwater.

The sweeping new statute, which includes more than $140bn in incentives designed to promote renewable fuels and cleaner electricity generation, could slash greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 2005 levels by the end of the decade. But in its efforts to promote climate-friendly agriculture, it also promotes corn-fed ethanol refineries and manure-based energy production that could unintentionally supercharge fertilizer and fecal contamination.

Big winners from Biden’s climate law: Republicans who voted against it

Read the full story at Politico.

GOP lawmakers voted en masse against Biden’s signature bill. But roughly two-thirds of green-energy projects announced since it became law are going to Republican-held congressional districts, a POLITICO analysis found.

The U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization: A Joint Strategy to Transform Transportation

Download the document.

The U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization is a first-of-its-kind strategy for federal leadership
and partnerships to decarbonize the entire U.S. transportation sector. Decarbonizing the transportation sector will
require multiple strategies and resources to deliver safe, effective, affordable, and sustainable solutions to existing
and emerging challenges.

How dark money groups led Ohio to redefine gas as ‘green energy’

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

When Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed a bill this month to legally redefine natural gas as a source of “green energy,” supporters characterized it as the culmination of a grass-roots effort to recognize the Buckeye state’s largest energy source.

“It’s green. It’s clean. And it’s abundant right under our feet, right here in Ohio,” Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio) wrote in an opinion piece in the Columbus Dispatch.

But Ohio’s new law is anything but homegrown, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post. The Empowerment Alliance, a dark money group with ties to the gas industry, helped Ohio lawmakers push the narrative that the fuel is clean, the documents show. The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, another anonymously funded group whose donors remain a mystery, assisted in the effort.

ALEC — a network of state lawmakers, businesses and conservative donors — circulated proposed legislation for Ohio lawmakers and has urged other states to follow suit, according to the documents, which were obtained via a public records request by the Energy and Policy Institute, a group that advocates for renewable energy.

Social media engagement increases government action, reduces pollution: study

Read the full story from The Hill.

Citizen engagement through social media leads to a significant improvement in government response and a decrease in water and air pollution, a new study has found

New evidence finds current policies not working to end plastic pollution

Read the full story from the University of Portsmouth.

A new report examining the effectiveness of global plastic policies concludes that current approaches to policy making will not produce the step change needed to tackle the global plastic pollution crisis.

The findings from the University of Portsmouth’s Global Plastic Policy Centre (GPPC) were unveiled today at the UN Environment Program Marine Debris Conference in Busan, South Korea.

Energy-insecure households sometimes use risky coping strategies to keep lights, heat on

Read the full story from Indiana University.

More than half of all low-income households engaged in coping strategies to reduce their energy bills, according to a study from researchers at the Indiana University Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The coping strategies, such as accruing debt, forgoing expenses on food, and using space heaters or ovens to warm their home, can introduce significant physical and financial risks.

The research could have direct implications for public policy improvements, including modifications to the U.S. Weatherization Assistance Program, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and state utility disconnection protections.

The article, “Behavioral and financial coping strategies among energy-insecure households,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was written by professor Sanya Carley, Lynton K. Caldwell Professor David Konisky and Ph.D. candidate Trevor Memmott, all in the O’Neill School, and Cleveland State assistant professor Michelle Graff, a former grad student of Carley and Konisky.

Bioeconomy Policy Development Sprint

The bioeconomy – the part of the economy driven by the life sciences and biotech, and enabled by engineering, computing, and information science – has the potential to revolutionize human health, climate and energy, food security and sustainability, and supply chain stability, as well as support economic growth and well-paying jobs across the entire country. The U.S. government has recognized this exceptional promise: The recent Executive Order on advancing the U.S. bioeconomy and relevant provisions in the CHIPS and Science Law and the Inflation Reduction Law have opened up an excellent opportunity to engage with the U.S. government to help develop and shape the implementation of policies to bolster the economic engine that is the biotech and biomanufacturing ecosystem.

The Day One Project now needs your help to generate innovative, specific, and actionable policy ideas that the U.S. government could use to supercharge the U.S. bioeconomy.

They are particularly focused on:

  • Leveraging financial or economic tools – such as loan programs, tax incentives, demand-pull mechanisms, and economic development challenges – to support and advance the U.S. bioeconomy in ways that enable and incentivize biotech or biomanufacturing to expand into new regions of the U.S., build new facilities, and engage in workforce development efforts;
  • Enabling better measurement of the U.S. bioeconomy’s contributions to the rest of the economy; and
  • Devising new authorities that may be needed at federal agencies in order to support a maximally-coordinated effort to advance the U.S. bioeconomy.

Submit your idea here. Submissions are due Monday, November 7th, and will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so submit today!

I was a presidential science adviser – here are the many challenges Arati Prabhakar faces as she takes over President Biden’s science policy office

U.S. science policy can support anything from basic research to late-stage applications. Anchalee Phanmaha/Moment via Getty Images

by Neal Lane, Rice University

Arati Prabhakar has been sworn in as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and assistant to the president for science and technology after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate, two months following her nomination by President Joe Biden. As the director of OSTP and assistant to the president, she now serves as the confidential science adviser to the president and is also accountable to Congress. Prabhakar is both the first woman and first person of color to hold this role.

I had the pleasure of getting to know Prabhakar during the Clinton administration when she was the director of the National Institute for Standards and Technology and I was director of the National Science Foundation. In 1998, President Bill Clinton selected me to be his director of OSTP and assistant to the president for science and technology, a position I held until the end of the administration in 2001.

These positions at the National Science Foundation and Office of Science Technology and Policy gave me different perspectives on how the federal government carries out its multiple complicated roles supporting science and technology, as well as a sense of some of the challenges Prabhakar faces. By focusing on cooperation among federal agencies and the White House offices in addressing the president’s goals, she can help ensure that the U.S. science and technology enterprise rises to the many difficulties the country faces today.

A white-haired man in a suit and sunglasses sits at a desk surrounded by people, with a document standing on the desk.
Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law in August 2022, providing funding for semiconductor manufacturing and scientific research in the U.S. to compete with China. AP/Evan Vucci

Eyes on innovation

Born in India, Prabhakar immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, obtained a doctorate in applied physics from the California Institute of Technology and has had a distinguished career in both government and industry. She has held leadership positions in several technology and venture capital companies. Her most recent federal appointment was as director of the Defense Advanced Project Agency, or DARPA, under Barack Obama.

Today, the U.S. faces a number of existential challenges ranging from climate change to future pandemics, to competition from China, to social inequality – all of which will require harnessing the power of science, technology and innovation. In Prabhakar’s Senate testimony, she described how the OSTP is the only place in the federal government that focuses on the overall health and global standing of U.S. science and technology capability. The full spectrum of exploration, discovery and implementation fall under her purview – from very basic, fundamental research to putting technological innovations into the market.

Biden shares this belief in the vital role of science and innovation, as does Congress. The recently passed the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act promotes general research and development and semiconductor manufacturing capability, specifically as a response to the rapid rise of Chinese science, technology and innovation.

Collaboration is critical

A white-haired woman smiles in a formal portrait with an American flag in the background.
Arati Prabhakar has held leadership positions in DARPA, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology and a number of private companies. DARPA

No single U.S. executive department or agency alone can accomplish the president’s goals. The U.S. system is enormously complicated; a multitude of agencies support research and development, as well as applications of science and technology. For example, many departments and agencies were instrumental in developing and launching the internet, which many people might take for granted today.

Science agencies interact with dozens of White House offices. OSTP must work well with all these agencies and offices of the White House, a place where effectiveness depends on establishing a balance between assertiveness and cooperation with other players.

A big challenge for Prabhakar – and an issue on the minds of many leaders in science and technology – will be assisting and coordinating the efforts of many research agencies to achieve national goals while protecting and strengthening their traditional roles in supporting basic research in science and engineering. This will require earning the trust and respect of the heads of the various agencies and her colleagues in the White House and making sure her voice is heard in order to achieve the goals laid out by the president and Congress.

Balancing basic research with applications

I very much agree with Prabhakar that the U.S. could benefit greatly from investments in both fundamental research as well as in technology development, but trade-offs will inevitably be made within that broad scope of federal responsibilities.

There is growing concern within the research community that, given the recent focus of Congress and the Biden administration on innovation and the translation of scientific discoveries into real-world applications, fundamental research is likely to lose support. Many worry this could harm the United States’ long-standing supremacy in science.

Prabhakar has devoted her career to creating solutions from the scientific advances that come from basic research done in universities, national laboratories and in industry. She is well aware that sound judgment, teamwork and a degree of assertiveness will be needed to advance the president’s research, development and innovation initiatives while ensuring policymakers do not neglect fundamental research.

People in business attire sit around a long conference table with microphones placed above them.
Prabhakar is now a member of Biden’s Cabinet and will play a central role in facilitating fruitful relationships between the many players in science and technology. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

How to be effective

With so many players involved, cooperation is key.

As OSTP director, Prabhakar has the task of facilitating effective cooperation among the many federal scientific, health and regulatory agencies. Cooperation among federal agencies and companies, particularly in areas of new technologies, is critically important for accelerating the pace of translation of discoveries to applications, but that has consistently been hard to manage.

The OSTP director can also play an important role in facilitating the relationships between industry and government, and there are currently both a commitment and substantial funding from both sides to support this goal. The CHIPS and Science Act calls for the government to invest US$10 billion to create 20 new “regional technology and innovation hubs” in locations that are not currently centers of technology. I believe Prabhakar’s experience in DARPA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the private sector will allow her to deftly promote cooperation.

Another particularly important challenge every OSTP director faces is in helping prepare the annual budget request. The budget consists of thousands of lines disbursing funding for executive departments and agencies. While the Office of Management and Budget plays the lead role in this process, the director of OSTP is expected to work with the director of the OMB and many other White House advisers to ensure that the president’s priorities in science and technology are addressed.

Since the president’s initiatives will involve many federal agencies, pulling together all the necessary information for the budget is going to be particularly challenging and will require considerable cooperation between agencies. It is critical that Prabhakar develop a close working relationship with the OMB to make sure the agencies get what they need.

The U.S. is facing huge challenges – from pandemics to climate change to competition with China – that all require massive national efforts in science and technology. Arati Prabhakar has devoted her career to advancing U.S. innovation and competitiveness in science and technology. I believe she will do an excellent job in her new role. A final attribute she brings to the table is the fact that, as an immigrant, she sets an example for the thousands of women and men coming to the U.S. to study science, engineering and technology. It is vitally important that the U.S. continue to be a magnet for talent from all over the world.

Neal Lane, Emeritus Professor of Science and Technology Policy and Physics and Astronomy, Rice University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Climate Change: Enhancing Federal Resilience

Download the document and see the related story at Smart Cities Dive.

To reduce federal fiscal exposure to climate change, the federal government needs a cohesive, strategic approach, with strong leadership and the authority to manage risks.