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Renewable Energy Costs You, Whether You Like It or Not

March 31, 2010 --

by Todd Wynn
Cascade Policy Institute

Portland General Electric (PGE) customers may have noticed something new on their bills recently. Last month, a “renewable resource adjustment” was added to electricity bills to pay for additional renewable resources like wind power. Even if you are not enrolled in the Green Power Program, all PGE customers are forced to pay for renewable energy. According to PGE, ratepayers can thank their legislators for this added electricity cost.

In 2007, Oregon legislators passed a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), forcing major utilities to procure 25% of their electricity from new renewable resources by 2025. With much fanfare, Governor Kulongoski claimed that this would be “protecting ratepayers with more stable and predictable utility rates.” Environment Oregon also claimed that ratepayers will save money by having utilities invest in wind energy instead of in fossil fuels. They were wrong.

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Rural Business Opportunity Grants Available

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National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition,

Yesterday’s Federal Register announced the availability of grants to fund projects designed to help rural communities create wealth, repopulate and become self-sustaining.  Projects can receive up to $250,000 across a period of up to two years. These Regional Business Opportunity Grants (RBOG)  give preference to  “Great Region” applications, or applications from multijurisdictional areas within a State, territory, or Federally-designated Tribal land or crossing such boundaries.

This regional approach could be considered a test run for the Regional Innovation Initiative proposed in the USDA’s budget for FY 2011 which would create set-asides in a number of USDA programs for applications that are part of a comprehensive regional development plan. Once selected,  grantees may be provided with targeted technical assistance by the USDA or other federal agencies.

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Forecast shows low water levels

March 30, 2010 --

Warm and dry winter leads to water concerns in Oregon
By Oregon Department of Agriculture,

In typical El Niño fashion, winter in the Pacific Northwest has been generally warm and dry, as predicted. Spring officially arrived this past weekend but may not carry with it as much precipitation as needed following the low snowpack in Oregon’s mountains. The result could be challenging times for agriculture and irrigators in the summer.

“After the early season cold air outbreak in December, the months of January and February were incredibly mild,” says meteorologist Pete Parsons of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “Of course, that led to some poor mountain snowpacks around the state. It will probably be a tough year for irrigators. At this time, it appears nearly all areas of the state are going to be short on water.”

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New D.C. animal group poses danger for ranchers

March 29, 2010 --

By Mike Mehren
Oregon Feed and Grain Association

This little beauty will be quite a bit different than any of my columns. This is about an organization calling itself ‘Global Animal Partnership’. The organization is headquartered in Wa D.C. Members of the Board include Wayne Pacelle of the H.S.U.S. and Steven Gross from P.E.T.A. Neither of these groups represented on their board have been friends of animal agriculture. The Ag Marketing Service of the USDA reported that their 5 step approach was a natural extension of the Organic Standards. Some of the standards that I consider ridiculous are: no cattle shall go through an auction barn, no cow shall be hauled within 12 weeks of calving, no rodents in the barn…I can’t seem to keep them out of my house!

Their stated goal is to facilitate and encourage improvement in animal agriculture. Sounds something LIKE the government man that stops by the ranch and says ‘I’m here to help you’.

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National Water Census will assess nation’s resources

March 28, 2010 --

American Farm Bureau Federation,

As Americans start to fill out the U.S. Census forms they have received in recent days, one government agency is working on another kind of census: a National Water Census to get a handle on the water resources that are available for various uses—irrigation, livestock, public use, thermal electric power generation, aquaculture, mining, industry and well withdrawals.

The water census is part of a broader Interior Department project called the Water Smart Initiative. The initiative tasks department agencies—the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and office of the assistant secretary for Water and Science—with establishing current water footprints and identifying ways to conserve. The census, overseen by USGS, is an ongoing accounting of the changing quantity, quality and use of water resources across the nation. Congress ordered the project when it passed the Secure Water Act in early 2009 as part of an omnibus public lands bill.

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Chart: 80 year decline in rural population

Mount St. Helens Reawakens: The 30th Anniversary

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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey

Vancouver, Wash.—A magnitude 4.2 earthquake 30 years ago Saturday (3/20) marked the reawakening of Mount St. Helens after 123 years of inactivity and set the stage for the most destructive eruption in U.S. history. The catastrophic eruption of May 18, 1980, claimed 57 lives and caused an estimated $1 billion damage. It was a very visible reminder that volcanoes can reawaken quickly and with little warning, and that Cascade Range volcanic activity was far from being a thing of the past.

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Opposition grows to Farm Budget Cuts

March 26, 2010 --

By National Association of Wheat Growers

As the budget process tilts into full gear amid ongoing debates about health care and tax extenders, agriculture supporters are making known their opposition to cuts proposed in the Obama Administration’s budget and the Standard Reinsurance Agreement (SRA) renegotiation.

NAWG joined this week a coalition of 35 agricultural groups in writing Budget Committee leaders in the House and Senate to express opposition to the proposed cuts, saying Congress should ensure the government keeps its five-year contract with agricultural producers.

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Bend solar company bought

March 25, 2010 --

By Natural Resource News Note:

A rising star solar company in Bend, named Powered, was purchased for $90 million by Advanced Energy. Below is the press release from Advanced Energy Industries, Inc.

Fort Collins, Colo., March 24, 2010 – Advanced Energy Industries, Inc. (Nasdaq GM: AEIS) today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire PV Powered Inc., a leading manufacturer of grid-tied PV inverters in the residential, commercial, and utility-scale markets. The acquisition is expected to add an estimated $40-50 million to Advanced Energy’s 2010 revenues and be neutral to marginally dilutive to GAAP net income in 2010.

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Newly discovered Willamette sturgeon spawning area to be studied

March 24, 2010 --

Researchers to study newly discovered sturgeon spawning area in Willamette River
By Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife,

CLACKAMAS, Ore. — Researchers from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recently began surveying the Willamette River downstream of Willamette Falls to learn more about a previously unknown white sturgeon spawning area. According to Tucker Jones, ODFW white sturgeon project leader, researchers were surprised to discover white sturgeon spawning in the Willamette River last spring. Until then, the only known spawning grounds for the lower Columbia River white sturgeon population, which includes sturgeon in the lower Willamette River, was immediately downstream of Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.

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