Over the last year we have held about a dozen meetings and events; created a website and public discussion forum; and have been involved in the development of several important technical matters related to sustainable energy systems. In the course of these efforts, you have probably observed that perhaps half of our time and effort during meetings and with online discussions lean significantly toward the influence of public policy on the development, maintenance, and implementation of sustainable energy systems. This is evident both in the chicken-scratch notes of mine from our meetings, as well as the posts on the discussion forum.
Let me take a moment to discuss the history of ASME, and how one of the oldest engineering society's founding principles are still important today. For more information, check out the ASME website's history page:
ASME was founded in 1880 by a group of prominent engineers to provide a setting for engineers to discuss the concerns brought by the rise of industrialization & mechanization. In particular were the instances of steam boilers exploding and causing death, injury and destruction which could have been prevented with the appropriate engineering design principles applied to boiler designs. Having established the Boiler Testing Code in 1884, ASME formed a Boiler Code Committee in 1911 that led to the Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC) being published in 1915. The BPVC was later incorporated into laws in most US states and territories and Canadian provinces. In other words, technical parameters about an incredibly useful but dangerous mechanical device- the boiler- were established by engineers who best knew what requirements should be in place; and this led creation of laws and policies to ensure safety in design.
The need for technical experts to establish engineering standards is ever more important today as it was more than 130 years ago. Hydrofracking offers the potential for an enormous & local supply of US natural gas; but there are valid safety and environmental concerns. Wind turbines have demonstrated promise for sustainable energy in high-wind areas; but have been shown to produce significant environmental impacts; and possibly safety as well. And in today's global economy the world is seeming to grow smaller as we share in the limited resources available. These challenges offer measurable and verifiable design parameters for which engineers are the best suited members of society to address.
Macroeconomic concepts, and the use of statistics as they relate to policymaking, however important they may be to sustainable energy systems, are best addressed by other groups of experts or specialists in those areas. For that reason, our committee will only become involved in matters of policy to the extent of the technical parameters of the engineering issue to be addressed. While we engineers & scientists are certainly smart enough to examine these other aspects of policy, they are exceptionally complex and require too much time & effort to adequately address with the resources available to this committee.
- Hydrofracking standard development to prevent wastewater contaminating groundwater: in scope; engineering considerations could lead to standards development, and possibly laws put in place
- Developing projections about fossil fuel availability & supply: out of scope; has no DIRECT bearing on sustainable energy systems, or the technical considerations therein
- Creating subsidies for corn-based ethanol: out of scope; macroeconomic and policymaking principles are beyond the expertise of engineering (again, even if engineers are smart enough of address these matters)
- High-level sustainable energy system analysis: in scope; verifiable metrics about both non and renewable energy sources, and the technology today, can be examined based on the demonstrated facts.
- CO2 emissions and global warming: in scope (but barely due to complexity); extremely complex, but analysis should be founded on scientific, verifiable principles and modeling.
- Offshore wind turbine noise; in-scope; engineering design standards could address environmental concerns about noise
If you have any questions or wish to further discuss, please contact me.
For your viewing pleasure, here's a wind turbine bursting into pieces. Whether you're a wind power lover or hater, you're sure to see an opportunity to apply engineering best practices for improvement. Please note how ENORMOUS that turbine is against the landscape.