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Debating Science Policy in Thermodynamics Shannon Mayer Department of Physics University of Portland.

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Presentation on theme: "Debating Science Policy in Thermodynamics Shannon Mayer Department of Physics University of Portland."— Presentation transcript:

1 Debating Science Policy in Thermodynamics Shannon Mayer Department of Physics University of Portland

2 Motivation Technological innovations can both transform and have significant consequence for society. Many critical conversations has sophisticated scientific underpinnings. Science can bring a distinct and essential voice. How do we train science and engineering students to be advisors and participants in these important conversations? A liberal arts education Students dont often draw connections between their liberal arts core courses and courses in their major. How can we give students the tools to relate scientific knowledge and technical expertise to the public arena. One facet of science literacy: being able to use scientific knowledge and ways of thinking for personal and social purposes. * * from Science for All Americans 1990 (AAAS)

3 Physics 441: Statistical and Thermal Physics Junior/senior physics majors Typical enrollment ~ 10 students Text: Daniel V. Schroeder, An Introduction to Thermal Physics

4 Primary Course Objective: To examine the fundamental principles of thermal physics from both microscopic (statistical) and macroscopic (classical) viewpoints and to apply these principles to thermodynamic systems. Secondary Course Objective: Enhance the students ability to draw connections between their developing scientific understanding of thermal physics and relevant science policy issues.

5 Science Policy Debates: Cape Wind Fuel Economy Standards for Sport Utility Vehicles Format for Debate/Discussion: Incorporated into traditional course curriculum. Provided short, selected readings prior to class debate In-class debate/discussion post-discussion reflective essays

6 Journal of College Science Teaching, 36(7), (2007).

7 Cape Wind Related Course Topics: Alternate forms of energy production. Limited consideration to design issues and energy production capabilities. Motivation: Wind power is a relatively uncontroversial alternative energy source. Encompasses a variety of issues such as environmental impact, public-land usage, and impact on wildlife habitat.

8 The Proposal 2001: Cape Wind Associates proposed construction of a 130 turbine, 450-megawatt wind farm on public lands in Nantucket Sound. The 127 m-high wind turbine generators would span a 24 square-mile area off Cape Cod between the islands of Nantucket and Marthas Vineyard. Cape Cod currently relies on an oil-fired plant, a coal- fired plant, and a nuclear reactor for its energy. The proposed wind farm is expected to provide 3/4 of the electricity needs of Cape Cod and the neighboring islands.

9 Background Wind power currently ~ 0.5% of U.S. power grid. California and Texas lead the nation in energy production from land-based wind farms. Nantucket sound is both a public resource and a cultural landmark. Many U.S. facilities located on private lands or in largely unpopulated areas, thereby reducing strong public reaction to their development. Moreover, government regulation of public land use by private companies has a long-established history (e.g. logging in national forests).

10 Cape Wind Debate The Question: Should the Massachusetts company Cape Wind construct a 130 turbine, 420-megawatt wind farm on public lands off the coast of Cape Cod between the islands of Nantucket and Marthas Vineyard? Cape Wind vs. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. Background Readings: Several short articles from the popular press. Draft Environmental Impact Statement from the Army Corps of Engineers (Nov 2004).

11 Comprehensive Environmental Permitting/ Approval Process Environmental impact review mandated by National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Cape Cod Commission Regional Policy Act (CCC). -In all 17 Federal and State agencies involved. Review includes a study of environmental impact issues surrounding construction and operation of the site. Includes resources ranging from geology, marine life, and avian resources, to water quality, commercial and recreational fishing, and cultural heritage. Includes consideration of alternative sites and technologies.

12 The Debate Cape Wind vs. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound Student conducted additional research prior to in-class debate. Format for the debate. Dominant Issues: pros and cons of wind power, impact on marine life and wildlife, aesthetics, responsibility and guardianship of public lands.

13 Broader Application Applicable in a broad range of courses. Many of the types of issues raised in this debate are applicable to a broad range of topics related to technology development and implementation. Broad range of parties have a vested interest in the application of new technology. Explicit consideration of benefactors vs. losers Similar questions – personal technology or application of medical advances: accessibility, cost, etc.

14 The Sport Utility Vehicle: Debating Fuel Economy Standards in Thermodynamics Journal of College Science Teaching, in press (2008).

15 SUV Fuel Economy Standards Related Course Topics: Heat engines, the Carnot Cycle, the Otto cycle Hydrogen fuel cells Special Topics: engine efficiency, automobile efficiency, advance automotive technology (direct fuel injection, automated manual transmission, variable valve timing and lift). Motivation: Timely issue. Technical expertise can significantly inform opinion.

16 Background: Corporate Avg. Fuel Economy (CAFE) Established 1975 in response to Arab oil embargo Current Standards Passenger car: 27.5 mpg Light trucks: 22.2 mpg SUVs and the light-truck loophole Sport utility vehicles classified as light trucks. Increase in popularity of SUVs in 1990s contributed to an overall reduction in average fuel economy since the mid-1980s.

17 Standard for MY 1985 CAFE established for light-duty trucks CAFE established for passenger vehicles Fuel Economy Standard (mpg) Model Year Passenger vehicles Light-duty trucks CAFE Reform: All passenger trucks (2011) Standard relaxed for MY 1986 – 1989 in response to petitions from auto makers. Proposed standard for fleet-wide average of 35 mpg by Auto manufacturers paid ~$475 million in civil penalties between for non-compliance.

18 SUV Debate The Question: Should fuel-economy standards be tightened in order to reduce dependence on foreign oil? Background Reading: Excerpt of testimony presented at a U.S. Senate Science and Transportation sub-committee hearing in December 2001.* Several short articles from the popular press. *Cooper, M. H. (2002, February 1). Energy security. The CQ Researcher Online, 12, Retrieved June 4, 2007, from CQ Researcher Online,

19 Senate Testimony Pro: Union of Concerned Scientists Raising fuel economy standards is the fastest, least expensive, and most effective thing congress can do to reduce our future dependence on foreign oil. Improving fuel economy can be achieved with existing technology. Con: General Motors Corporation GM is invested in long-term technology development: fuel cell technology. New requirements would pull GM back to incremental improvements. Reducing consumption (i.e. driving less, carpooling, etc.) is the best policy to pursue.

20 Questions used for preparation 1. Summarize the primary argument in favor of increasing fuel-economy standards. 2. Summarize the primary argument in opposition to increasing fuel-economy standards. 3. Which argument do you find most compelling and why? 4. What do you see as the most significant obstacle faced by the position promoted by the Union of Concerned Scientists? By General Motors? 5. Does either side have a bias that might influence the opinion that they present? 6. What biases do you bring to the table that might influence your decision to support one side or the other? Are these biases good or bad? 7. What questions would you need to research in order to develop a better scientifically-informed position? How would you go about answering these questions? Select one question to research further. 8. What lengths should we go to in order to reduce our dependence on foreign oil? What would you be willing to give up? 9. What factors are important to consider as we balance issues of business with issues of public good?

21 Additional Research Supplemental research students conducted prior to the discussion also informed the dialogue. Hydrogen fuel cells Impact of fuel economy on road safety Practical (engineering feasibility of implementing higher standards Possible economic impact of higher standards

22 Outcomes Student response My observations

23 References: Cape Wind Debate W. Williams, Blowing out to Sea, Scientific American, 286 (2002) pgs Editor, A tempest off Nantucket, Economist, 368 (2003) pg. 30. S. Chasteen, Who Owns the Wind? Science and Spirit, 15 (2004) pg. 12. S. Mayer, Cape Wind: A Public Policy Debate for the Physical Science, J. Coll. Sci. Teaching, 36(7) (2007) pgs SUV Debate Cooper, M. H. (2002, February 1). Energy security. The CQ Researcher Online, 12, Retrieved June 4, 2007, from CQ Researcher Online, U. S. Senate U. S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee sub-committee hearing on corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) reform; December 6, Pro argument: David Friedman, Union of Concerned Scientists. Con argument: Thomas Davis, General Motors Corp. Available online at Oregonian Lead, follow or get out of the way. The Oregonian. (Aug. 26, 2005). Scully, M. G The End of Easy Oil. The Chronicle of Higher Education (Oct. 1, 2004): B11. S. Mayer, The Sport Utility Vehicle: Debating Science Policy in Thermodynamics, J. Coll. Sci. Teaching, in press.


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