Cross-posted from Americans for Energy Leadership
By Sydney Baloue
Last week, IEEE USA and GridWise Alliance wrote a joint open letter urging U.S. Senator Alexander (R-TN) to support RE-ENERGYSE, a Department of Energy and National Science Foundation strategic partnership that would establish the nation's first comprehensive federal program for clean energy science and engineering education. Senator Alexander is a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development, which will decide if RE-ENERGYSE gets appropriated or not.
Americans for Energy Leadership has been a champion for this proposal through its ReEnergyse Campaign, which recently organized over 100 university and college student body presidents in support of the program. The IEEE and GridWise letter builds upon these efforts -- as well as last year's RE-ENERGYSE letter signed by over 100 universities and professional associations -- by urging the Senator to support the Obama Administration's request of $55 million in funding for the new energy education and training program in the FY2011 budget. It also explains that RE-ENERGYSE's goal is to support technical training, fellowships, internships, scholarships, and new masters programs that focus on applied energy science and engineering:
"The IEEE USA and GridWise Alliance have joined forces to urge your support for the Department of Energy's "REgaining our ENERGY Science and Engineering Edge" (RE-ENERGYSE) program... The program will help students and workers learn skills needed to solve practical energy challenges, such as deploying clean energy and energy efficiency technologies, as well as essential enabling smart grid technologies... RE-ENERGYSE is also needed to boost our nation's capability for innovation... RE-ENERGYSE will advance a clean energy and energy efficient economy which will remain competitive in global markets; we urge your support for this appropriation."
Senator Alexander is a major proponent of STEM education and innovation, and he commissioned the original "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report with Senator Bingaman. He is principle Republican co-sponsor of the Senate version of the American COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which as passed in the House would authorize the higher education component of RE-ENERGYSE (see Breakthrough Institute's "Strengthening Clean Energy Competitiveness" report for further recommendations for energy science and engineering education).
Just last year, Senator Alexander and Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) introduced "The Clean Energy Act of 2009," a bipartisan bill that promotes further investment and development of the nation's clean energy technologies. He has also expressed significant concern about how the United States is falling behind in clean energy technologies, urging action to improve US. STEM education:
"How did the Koreans come so far so fast? People will talk about "cheap labor," "government enterprise" and "copycat technology." But I have another hypothesis. Year after year, Korean students are at the top of world performance in math and science while the United States doesn't even rank in the top ten. In the Program for International Student Assessment's math test for 15-year-old students, for instance, South Korea ranks third, behind Finland and Taiwan, while the United States ranks 21st. They're 75 points ahead of us on a scale of 1,000. We've been hearing about these statistics for decades - maybe we've even grown used to them - but now we're starting to see the consequences. We're a country that is falling behind the rest of the world in science literacy."