Technology Assessment at the Congressional Research Service

04.11.12 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The elimination of the congressional Office of Technology Assessment in 1995 was a self-inflicted wound that left Congress with diminished capacity to evaluate the challenging scientific and technological issues that continue to confront it.  But the need for such an enterprise to support the legislative process has not gone away, and to a limited extent it is now being addressed by the Congressional Research Service (as well as the Government Accountability Office).

Last month, CRS completed a substantial 139 page report entitled Energy Storage for Power Grids and Electric Transportation: A Technology Assessment. At first glance, it looks like an informative piece of work.

“This report attempts to summarize the current state of knowledge regarding energy storage technologies for both electric power grid and electric vehicle applications. It is intended to serve as a reference for policymakers interested in understanding the range of technologies and applications associated with energy storage, comparing them, when possible, in a structured way to highlight key characteristics relevant to widespread use.”

Two other recent CRS reports discuss the implications of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the controversial technology for injecting fluids into underground wells to stimulate oil and gas production.  See Hydraulic Fracturing and Safe Drinking Water Act Issues, April 10, 2012, and Hydraulic Fracturing: Chemical Disclosure Requirements, April 4, 2012.

Some other newly updated CRS reports that Congress has declined to make available to the public include the following.

Defining Homeland Security: Analysis and Congressional Considerations, April 3, 2012

Small Business Size Standards: A Historical Analysis of Contemporary Issues, April 10, 2012

Medicare Trigger, April 9, 2012

Western Sahara, April 5, 2012

Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations, April 10, 2012