The best of the federal blogosphere
- By Michael Hardy
- Jun 06, 2011
LaHood peddles pedaling to work
Fast Lane blog
The Transportation Department normally deals with planes, trains and automobiles, but Secretary Ray LaHood recently encouraged another option: bicycling to work.
LaHood writes that he was “particularly pleased that so many DOT employees at our headquarters took advantage of the nice weather” and rode bikes to work on May 20, which was Bike to Work Day.
The Washington Area Bicyclist Association held a rally that day at Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington, LaHood writes, adding: “This year, the association registered more than 10,000 cyclists who biked to work, some in commuter convoys, to 49 different pit stops throughout the region. Over 2,000 cyclists stopped by the Freedom Plaza event on their way to work to get to know their fellow cyclists and celebrate the benefits of cycling.”
LaHood notes that he's a longtime advocate of bike riding, a position shared by Peter Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration.
“With gas prices above $4 a gallon in many communities, bicycling has become an even more sensible option,” LaHood writes. “As Administrator Rogoff said, 'Cycling is more than just a healthy way to get around; it goes right to the core of achieving President Obama's effort to reduce our nation's dependence on oil.'"
High gas prices don’t deter drivers
Massachusetts' Revenue, Taxes and Local Services blog
It’s easy enough to complain when gasoline prices reach or even exceed $4 a gallon, but apparently cutting back on driving is a bit more difficult.
An official at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue writes that recent high gasoline prices haven’t curtailed consumption, at least as measured by the collection of gasoline excise taxes. The state collected $96.8 million in gas taxes in March and April, which is $200,000 more than the same two-month period a year ago.
In another blog post about gas prices in March, Massachusetts officials noted the view of economists that consumers are typically less responsive to short-term price hikes. However, consumers will react to extended periods of high prices with longer-term responses, such as buying more fuel-efficient vehicles, using public transportation or moving closer to their workplaces.
Of the gas taxes and fees that Massachusetts collects, 21 cents per gallon goes into a fund for highway maintenance and construction projects, and 2.5 cents per gallon helps fund the cleanup of underground storage tanks. The federal government collects a federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon.
The Department of Revenue’s recent blog post includes a link to an interesting table from the Tax Foundation that ranks gasoline taxes and fees by state. Massachusetts, at 23.5 cents per gallon, is 27th from the top, tied with Maryland. Alaska, at 8 cents per gallon, has the lowest gas tax and fees, while California, at 47.7 cents, has the highest.
Philosophizing with OSTI
Jeffrey Salmon, deputy director for resource management in the Energy Department’s Office of Science, invoked Plato in his introduction to a blog post about an external assessment of DOE’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information.
“'The unexamined life is not worth living,'” Salmon begins. “So says Plato’s Socrates in the ‘Apology.’ His self-examination led to extreme humility (or to an extreme irony) when Socrates confessed to his accusers that the only knowledge he had was knowledge of his own ignorance. No one we know of came away from a Socratic cross-examination in one piece, but they would at least have known their own limits. And in knowing their limits, or their ignorance, they would somehow be better.”
An external panel called a Committee of Visitors recently reviewed OSTI’s programs and wrote 10 reports, Salmon writes. “Taken as a whole, the 10 reviews shared a consistent message: OSTI needs to grapple with and resolve the balance between its mission to provide ready access to DOE R&D results and its more entrepreneurial mission of making all science information available to the world, both founded on the (as far as I know) noncontroversial notion that discovery is accelerated through the dispersal of knowledge.”
Space shuttle era draws to a close
NASA Administrator blog
The space shuttle Endeavour roared into the Florida sky May 16 on its final flight and the shuttle program’s penultimate mission. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden commemorated the event in his blog.
“Today's final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour is a testament to American ingenuity and leadership in human spaceflight,” he writes. “As we look toward a bright future with the International Space Station as our anchor and new destinations in deep space on the horizon, we salute the astronauts and ground crews who have ensured the orbiter’s successful missions.”
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), still recovering from an assassination attempt, attended the launch. Her husband, Mark Kelly, is the mission commander.