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Tribology and Lubrication Technology May 2017 : Page 22

LUBRICATION FUNDAMENTALS Dr. Robert M. Gresham / Contributing Editor Whither are we going? report ends tr ging second emer . s TLE’ S , change e essor elativ r edec f a period o Unlike its pr during try indus will examine our 22 • MA Y 2 017 TRIBOL OG Y & L UBRIC A TION TE CHNOL OG Y WWW .S TLE. OR G

Lubrication Fundamentals

Dr. Robert M. Gresham

Whither are we going?

Unlike its predecessor, STLE’s second emerging trends report will examine our industry during a period of relative change.

When government administrations change, so too do regulatory policies. Corporations must respond rapidly to keep their competitive edges.

YOU MIGHT THINK NOT A LOT HAS CHANGED since STLE published its groundbreaking study, Trends in Tribology and Lubrication Engineering: 2014 Report on Emerging Issues and Trends. This report has been a great resource for STLE members, providing insightful analysis on the direction of industry, science and technology plus regulatory and societal needs as they pertain to our industry. STLE published the study during a time of relative stability.

Last fall we initiated a new study with McKinley Advisors, STLE’s research partners on the report, to update the first version, examine which trends are still valid and identify trends that have emerged since 2014. Many of you will get a chance to contribute to this study—for that STLE thanks you. This effort is still in progress with the goal of publishing in late summer. However, there is one major difference between the second and first studies—the follow- up report is being created during a period of relative change.

As I read about current events in the U.S. government and talk with various colleagues, I’m thinking the 2017 Emerging Trends Report could have even more importance that its predecessor. First, STLE is doing a much better job of soliciting information from international players in our industry. This should provide deeper insights, especially for companies doing business on the global level. However, as important as that is, with the relative turmoil in the U.S. regarding policy changes resultant from a change in administrations, international input should help to provide perspective and context.

I’ve heard genuine angst from many colleagues who are dependent, directly or indirectly, on government funding for the future of their programs. “While we generally have bipartisan support for our work, this project could easily implode in the next few months,” they say. STLE Corporate Members ponder the impact of future regulatory changes: Will they create opportunity or take it away? How will we respond?

As an example, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that, “President Trump has ordered that the EPA should rework its Clean Power Plan, CPP, which would restrict emissions from existing power plants, mainly coal-fired ones.” And “President Trump also directed the Interior Department to lift its current moratorium on federal coal leasing and loosening restrictions on oil and gas development” and to “recalculate the ‘Social Cost of Carbon.’”

Historically the basis for the previous policies was based on the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In the U.S., this resulted in the EPA’s 2009 Endangerment Finding. Many of our current environmental regulations were a result of that finding. However, the Journal adds that “in 2013 the IPCC issued a more circumspect Fifth Assessment Report, which noted a hiatus in global warming since 1998 and a breakdown in correlation between the world’s average surface temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, causing the UN body to revise down its 2007 projections for the rate of planetary warming over the first half of the century.” Thus, there is a clear logic for taking another look at the 2009 Endangerment Finding and its resultant regulations—without, we hope, “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

Trust me, I have no intention of getting into the realm of the political but rather to illustrate how changes in government policy can impact STLE members in a wide variety of ways. In this case, academic and government laboratory people can lose funding and perhaps be out of a job or receive funding to do something else altogether. Corporations must respond rapidly to regulatory change to keep or improve their competitive edges. As I hope the previous example shows, we don’t now know whether or how these changes will affect our current efforts in fuel and energy efficiency, reduced emissions, etc. Will these changes have a positive or negative impact on our corporate members’ global business or international relationships? And what will be the impact on our academic and government laboratory people? Will there be consequences to the international community?

This, then, is one example of an area where STLE’s second emerging trends report could tweeze out how change to the U.S. Energy Policy will affect the lubricants industry. As we move to the future, guided by this effort, the tribology and lubrication engineering community will necessarily be at the forefront but, as always, behind the scenes, enabling many of these identified trends through creating the needed innovations that result.

Bob Gresham is STLE’s director of professional development. You can reach him at

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