A certain representative from California was questioning a witness from the U.S. Department of Energy at a hearing held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The topic was the Northwest Power bill, and the witness was trying to politely dismiss a proposal for electrical power transfer between the Northwest and California. "We'd like to do that, Congressman, but first we'd have to repeal the second law of thermodynamics/' the witness said. As the hearing ended, the Congressman turned to an aide and asked whether an amendment repealing the second law of thermodynamics could be drafted in time for the next hearing. (Schmid 1994)
The 1995 closing of the congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) significantly diminished access to scientific information within the U.S. Congress. Other chapters in this volume have discussed new mechanisms for filling this void, such as the revival of a "new OTA7; modifying or expanding the roles of the General Accounting Office, Congressional Research Service, and Congressional Budget Office,- or making greater use of the National Research Council of the National Academies complex. This chapter examines mechanisms that build on an existing, innovative program that has provided science and technology advice to the U.S. Congress for almost 30 years: the Congressional Science and Engineering (S&E) Fellowship Program.