Chapter 33 - Science, Technology, & Law in the 21st Century
33-4 Facing Global Challenges
All of the work done by the government relates in some way to four challenges: (1) the
possibility of war, (2) the volatility of the marketplace, (3) the twin dangers of
environmental deterioration and energy depletion, and (4) the demographic crisis.
Dealing with all of these problems is part of the balancing act that is the law. The Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is responsible for regulating the transportation
and the wholesale price of natural gas and electricity sold for use in interstate commerce.
State utility commissioners regulate intrastate prices. The Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC) is responsible for the licensing, construction, and operation of
nuclear reactors. On the international scene, the International Atomic Energy
Commission (IAEA) has oversight responsibility for matters dealing with nuclear power.
On the national level, the responsibility for the environment has been delegated to the
Environmental Protection Agency. Important subsidiary legislation includes the Clean Air
Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Oil Pollution Act. The regulation of the environment on
a global scale is charged to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
33-5 Protecting Intellectual Property
Intellectual property involves an intangible ownership right in an invention, a process, a
computer program, a chemical formula, an original recorded work such as a book or an
article, and so on. A patent is a property right granted by the federal government to an
inventor. A patent gives the inventor the exclusive right to make, use, and sell that
invention for a period of 20 years (14 years if the patent covers a process). A trade secret
is a plan, process, device, procedure, formula, pattern, compilation, technique, program,
design, method, or improvement used in a business and disclosed only to those
employees who need to know it to do their jobs. A copyright is an intangible property
right granted to authors of literary, artistic, and musical compositions. A copyright gives
the owner the exclusive right to reproduce, publish, and sell his or her work in a fixed,
tangible medium of expression.
33-6 Developing Global Solutions
There are four factors to consider when attempting to solve the Heilbroner challenges.
They are (1) the necessity of focusing on long range results; (2) the need to create
partnerships among government, business, and the academic community; (3) the need to
appreciate the key role played in these projects by human resources: and (4) the need to
develop inventive ways to obtain capital investments in science and related projects. The
primary job of the proposed UN Economic Security Council would be to assess the
condition of the world economy especially as it relates to the issues of environment,
energy, and population. The council would then draw up long-range plans that would
involve specific projects for sustainable development, environmental cleanup, population
control, and energy enrichment.
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