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Posts Tagged ‘National Energy Education Act’

rejected_graduates-thumb-200x180Lying in the rejected scrap heap created by the Senate’s passage of the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill (H.R. 3183) is RE-ENERGYSE, President Obama’s $115 million energy education program that he proposed last April.

Designed to usher in a new generation of young clean energy innovators by improving education in math and science, RE-ENERGYSE (REgaining our ENERGY Science and Engineering Edge) was a crucial part of Obama’s plan to drive our nation’s transition to a clean energy economy and maintain global competitiveness in the race for clean energy. Unfortunately, the Senate roundly disregarded Obama’s vision to meet the clean energy challenge when it appropriated none of the $34.3 billion in energy spending last week towards the program. Meanwhile, the House only appropriated $7.5 million to perform an assessment study.

By providing necessary educational resources and research opportunities, RE-ENERGYSE is precisely the kind of program the United States needs in order to inspire students to pursue careers in clean energy fields. Had it received funding, the program was slated to prepare approximately 8,500 talented young scientists and engineers to enter the clean energy workforce by 2015 – just for starters. What Congress has failed to recognize is that this fundamental investment in our nation’s youth is critical to facilitating a rapid transition to a clean energy economy.

According to a recent op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle by the Breakthrough Institute’s Jesse Jenkins and Teryn Norris, only around 15% of undergraduate degrees in the U.S. are awarded in the fields of math and science. And as Wall Street investment firms aggressively recruit the nation’s top students — not just in economics and finance, but in math, engineering, and physics — more and more of our nation’s best and brightest scientific minds are directed away from clean technology innovation and into the financial sector. (more…)

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President Obama and the Department of Energy are launching a new energy education initiative, very similar to the National Energy Education Act recommendations advanced by the Breakthrough Institute beginning in June 2008 (see recent post here). Last week, the Department of Energy released official FY 2010 budget documents that start to flesh out what this new program will look like. It appears the program will receive $115 million in funding, if the President’s budget request is implemented.

Here’s the description of the program from the new ‘Budget Highlights’ document available here (pdf):

RE-ENERGYSE (REgaining our ENERGY Science and Engineering Edge)

The Department will launch a comprehensive K-20+ science and engineering initiative, funded at $115 million in FY 2010, to educate thousands of students at all levels in the fields contributing to the fundamental understanding of energy science and engineering systems. This initiative, which complements the Department’s other education efforts, will provide graduate research fellowships in scientific and technical fields that advance the Department’s energy mission; provide training grants to universities that establish multidisciplinary research and education programs related to clean energy; support universities that dramatically expand energy-related research opportunities for undergraduates; build partnerships between community colleges and different segments of the clean tech industry to develop customized curriculum for “green collar” jobs; and increase public awareness, particularly among young people, about the role that science and technology can play in responsible environmental stewardship.

Later, the document specifies that $80 million will be dedicated to higher ed initiatives, while the remaining $35 million will focus on technical training as well as K12 eduction efforts (see p. 30).

A presentation on the budget delivered by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu is also posted online (pdf). The brief slide deck highlights the new RE-ENERGYSE initiative and appears to indicate the number of students the program will support at different grade levels in a chart shown here:

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By Teryn Norris & Jesse Jenkins

Today, President Obama announced a new national energy education initiative to inspire and train tens of thousands of young Americans “to tackle the single most important challenge of their generation — the need to develop cheap, abundant, clean energy and accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy.”

Last summer, we developed a proposal for a National Energy Education Act (NEEA) to launch a major new federal initiative supporting clean energy-related education, in collaboration with our Breakthrough Generation Fellows. We published the proposal in two newspaper op-eds, including the SF Chronicle and Baltimore Sun, and it was later featured in Mother Jones magazine, congressional testimony, and online interview. We also submitted a fact sheet and strategy brief to the Obama campaign and called upon young people to advocate for NEEA.

President Obama’s new energy education initiative, announced today at the National Academy of Sciences, takes a very similar approach. As he declared today:

“There will be no single Sputnik moment for this generation’s challenges to break our dependence on fossil fuels… But energy is our great project, this generation’s great project… the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation will be launching a joint initiative to inspire tens of thousands of American students to pursue these very same careers, particularly in clean energy. It will support an educational campaign to capture the imagination of young people who can help us meet the energy challenge… And it will support fellowships and interdisciplinary graduate programs and partnerships between academic institutions and innovative companies to prepare a generation of Americans to meet this generational challenge.”

This new initiative is a big step in the right direction, and we applaud President Obama and his administration for their commitment to inspiring and training the next generation of clean energy innovators. As we wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle last July:

“It is imperative that we transform our nation’s universities, colleges and vocational schools into multidisciplinary hubs of clean energy innovation… Today, a National Energy Education Act would equip a new generation of Americans with the highest-caliber human capital, inspire them to tackle energy as their generational undertaking, and pave the way for new industries and technologies that will drive the U.S. economy for decades to come.”

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