Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tuesday Roundup: Wind Energy and the Sage Grouse

04/24/2012

Idaho Birding Trail Idaho's largest wind power project was slated to be placed in the middle of a sage grouse area — and that may doom the project. The sage grouse may be declared an endangered species.

Climate change will have more impact on corn prices in the next few years than oil, trade policies or biofuels, according to a new study.

The study says that "unless farmers develop more heat-tolerant corn varieties or gradually move corn production from the United States into Canada, frequent heat waves will cause sharp price spikes," according to the New York Times. 

“I really thought climate would be a minor player before we did this analysis,” said Stanford University Professor Noah Diffenbaugh. “We’re looking at a period over the next three decades or so of moderate global warming, after all.”

What the scientists found, however, was that even a moderate warming trend would increase the number of extreme heat days each year — and thereby doubling the volatility of corn yields.

• Vermont, the nation's most rural state, also has one of the highest rates in the country of children who have not been immunized. Most of those parents who do not immunize their children cite a philosophical opposition. 

The state allows this excuse to exempt children from immunization laws. Recently, however, the state Senate voted to end this exemption (or at least curtail it) while the House voted to maintain it. The legislature is now in session. 

•Walmart's stock price fell 5 percent yesterday (and it was down another percent this morning) after a New York Times report Sunday revealed that the Bentonville, Arkansas, company paid millions in bribes to support the company's expansion in Mexico. 

The bribes would violate several U.S. laws. Walmart's internal investigation found many instances of bribery, but top company officials shelved the inquiry. 

Members of Congress have said they will begin their own investigation. United Food and Commercial Workers president Joe Hansen issued a statement saying that the "reported cover-up by Walmart executives at the highest levels exposes a core truth:  Walmart cannot be taken at its word." Hansen called for a Congressional investigation.

•If you are interested in the whole issue of coal production in the eastern mountains, the future viability of the coal industry and whether there are alternatives to fossil fuels in the production of electricity, read this piece by Ken Ward Jr. 

• Lexington, Kentucky, opened a new, $18 million teaching farm, the Locust Trace AgriScience Farm. 

About 200 students attend Locust Trace. They study veterinary science, biotech and, of course, tractor safety. 

• The Senate is supposed to vote today on dozens of amendments to a large bill overhauling the U.S. Postal Service. The amendments could fund a huge number of buyouts of postal employees and end six-day-a-week delivery. 

There are 39 amendments pending this morning. But the Washington Post says only 20 will get a vote. 

• The number of families that watch only free broadcast television is shrinking. From 2010 to 2010, the number of homes watching only broadcast television dropped from 6.25 million to 5.8 million. All four major television networks report prime time viewing declines. 

The declines are threatening the survival of television stations. 

• Most people surveyed in northeast Oregon want to use their natural resources now to create jobs rather than to save the forests for future generations, according to a report issued by The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. 

Residents of Baker, Union and Wallowa counties in Oregon are more likely than Americans nationally to favor exploration and drilling for oil rather than the development of renewable resources. They are also more likely to say that environmental laws have been bad for their region.

• A group of 17 U.S. Senators has sent a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan asking for changes in the administration's "Race to the Top" grant competition to allow more participation by rural districts. (See  Diette Courrege's column here.)

The senators say that rural districts are good candidates for RTTT funding but that they are often "constrained" in applying. To begin with, they often lack the expertise to complete long, complicated federal grant applications.

The senators ask for more technical assistance for rural districts and they ask that districts be allowed to apply jointly. 

• Most every newspaper carried the report from the Pew Research Center finding that the number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico in the U.S. has dropped sharply. Here's a story from Denver. 

• Regions Financial, the owner of a bunch of rural banks, reports that its provision for loan loss has declined 76 percent from a year ago, allowing for profits that beat all expectations

• Opposition from environmentalists has stopped Idaho's largest wind farm. NV Energy has pulled out of a project that would have placed up to 200 wind turbines on BLM land in the China Mountains that would have generated up to 425 megawatts of electricity. 

The project was sited within one of two sage-grouse strongholds. BLM held up approval of the project as it reviewed efforts to name the sage-grouse an endangered species.

The project was supported from ranchers and local business leaders, according to the Idaho Statesman.