Facing a depleted highway trust fund and a flat motor fuel tax, the Obama administration recently opened the door for states to collect tolls on interstate highways to help pay for transportation projects. Looking beyond this modest foray into charging people directly for their highway use, Martin Wachs, a longtime transportation analyst, has suggested in Issues that several types of more efficient, and more equitable, user charges are ready to be phased in.
The proposed Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act, which is the House Republicans alternative to the America Competes Act, is producing a strong reaction from the science community. At the May 1 AAAS Forum on S&T Policy, presidential science adviser John Holdren empasized the importance of maintaining NSF’s independence in making research funding decisions, and earlier in the week the National Science Board raised concerns about some aspects of the bill.
A retired Navy rear admiral and current professor of meteorology said in Slate that human-driven climate change is a growing security threat for the United States and many other nations. In Issues, a recent examination called the case for linking climate change and national security “robust but imperfect,” adding that people who are persuaded say there is much the United States can and should be doing on this front.
Apprenticeships, which Issues has explored as a practical tool for preparing the nation’s emerging workforce for good jobs today and into the future, will now become a key part of a major new federal job-training program. Newly announced by President Obama, the program will provide $100 million in competitive grants to expand apprenticeships nationwide, along with additional funding to encourage businesses and community colleges to collaborate on vocational training that targets critical industrial needs.
A recent New York Times article examines a worrisome question: what if the rush of technology in many fields is becoming a substitute for labor, pushing people out of good jobs without opening promising new employment opportunities? In Issues, Stuart W. Elliott presents his latest findings on how advances in information technology and robotics are likely to transform the workplace in the next few decades, concluding that the nation should regularly track emerging technological capabilities in order to anticipate their full consequences.
In its latest report on climate change, the United Nations makes its first mention of a possible future need to remove heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and inject it underground, according to the Toronto Star. But experts have cautioned in Issues that long before the United States takes such a step toward even modest “geoengineering,” it should establish an official oversight mechanism for evaluating research and making public decisions.
Investment in renewable energy projects declined in the United States and globally during 2013, according to a new report, in large part because of worries about future government support. But an expert on energy markets has argued in Issues that progress will be maximized only if the U.S. government stops trying to drive commercialization of particular technologies and returns to doing what it does best, supporting conceptual and technical research to find new and better technologies.
In Issues, a journalist recently debunked the common perception that the use of genetically modified cotton in India has precipitated an epidemic of suicides among its small farmers. Now, a statistician has released data making the same case, arguing that not only does available data show no increase in suicides following the introduction of genetically modified cotton, but that the suicide rate among farmers has actually declined since then.
A well-known wealth manager in Silicon Valley recently examined in Forbes the prospects for factory-made “cultured meat,” noting, among other things, that global demand for meat is projected to increase by more than two-thirds by 2050. In Issues, two scientists from Arizona State University have taken a more detailed look, suggesting a likely blueprint for initial industrial-scale production of meat and noting that obstacles may be as much social as technical or economic.
James Fallows, a longtime observer of the American scene, reports in The Atlantic on a Georgia high school in which all students not only take traditional academic classes but also participate in one of five “academies” emphasizing specific occupational skills, adding that such programs seem to be on the rise across the nation. Issues has also explored (here and here) how apprenticeships and other forms of technical training can prepare students, including those not interested in college, for jobs that are interesting, pay well, and likely to be secure.
Issues has examined several ways to revitalize manufacturing in the United States, including fostering widespread use of advanced production methods and improving the competitiveness of small- and medium-sized firms. Some of these approaches seem to be working in the rustbelt, according to The Daily Beast, as new technologies and an abundance of skilled workers are reviving the often-scorned region’s industrial base.